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November Ashes Mega Diary

Published on Thursday, November 3, 2016 By Draginol In Ashes Dev Journals

Greetings!
Sorry I haven't been as active lately. It's been Ashes of the Singularity 24/7 here at Stardock.

image

 

So let's do this:

## Escalation ##
We had to push the release date of Escalation from November 3 to November 10. This is my fault as I just wasn't comfortable with the balance in the campaign. It was a bit too hard on the default setting and we needed to adjust it.


Obviously, you can change the difficulty level (side note: In hindsight, it's pretty insane that the original game shipped without a campaign difficulty slider) but the default does matter a lot.

Escalation also has added more units to the mix to the point that our review guide is a bit out of date.

For example, the Charon cruiser is awesome. Any army it is apart of is able to teleport reinforcements to it instantly. But it will probably have a lot of threads about it because there's a unit that is very tough to balance. On a huge map with 20 factories going, a Charon is a roving nightmare unless you kill it quickly. So it has to be handled very carefully.

Back when I was a Total Annihilation nut playing in the PGL, I used all kinds of cheese tactics like com napping, jamming a flash into other people's factories (the destroyed hulk would block units from leaving the factory), giving metal generators (consume energy to give metal) and then gifting them to my opponent so that I could assassinate my opponent's commander without worrying about his Dgun. I'm not proud.

I bring up the above because as I play and balance Escalation, it's an endless challenge to find that right balance between what is fun and what is exploitable. Escalation includes a number of really interesting new units that are likely to create some new ways of playing the game that we can't imagine yet. So we'll have to pay very close attention to that.

## Flocking ##
Some of the negative Steam reviews talk about path finding problems in Ashes. But the problem they are experiencing isn't path finding, it's flocking. The units know how to get where they're going just fine. The challenge is what to do when you have hundreds of them trying to get past each other in the most efficient way possible. That requires a really sophisticated flocking algorithm and it's something we've been spending a lot of time on these past couple of months as it is a non-trivial programmatic challenge.

We think we have a suitable solution that should be ready to be made public next week. There are opt-ins that are starting to get pushed out that will test this and hopefully will make positioning armies much more enjoyable.

## Tournament Edition ##
Early next year we are going to create a Tournament Edition of the game. This version will initially be only available to Ashes players to share with 4 friends for free. Ashes of the Singularity: Tournament will be a multiplayer only version of the game to help encourage a bigger multiplayer community.

We still expect 90% of the player base to play the game exclusively single player but we do want to make sure there is a really strong multiplayer community as well.

## Vulkan ##
We have this most of the way completed and have test apps of it ready. The remaining issue is HLSL to Vulkan. One of our partners is working on an HLSL shader converter. Once we have that, we should be able to release a Vulkan version soon after.
Once there's a Vulkan version, we can take a look at SteamOS (Linux) support.

## Roadmap for Escalation vs. Ashes ##
It is important to remember that for us, there is ONLY Ashes of the Singularity. Escalation is an expansion to Ashes of the Singularity. When we are working on Escalation, we are also working on Ashes.


image

Ashes of the Singularity user interface

vs.

image

Escalation UI

 

Going forward, we will be differentiating Ashes and Escalation more distinctly and some of that means that certain elements of Escalation will come into the base game or be made available as DLC.

For example, here are some DLCs we are thinking of making available to Ashes players in the future that come with Escalation:

1. Crystaline worlds
2. Volcanic worlds
3. Maps with more players on them

There are also features that are probably going to back into Ashes (for free) that will debut in Escalation such as:

1. The UI update
2. The Substrate economy change
3. Upgrading the Smarty to a Barrager
4. Upgrading a Annihilator to a Deadly Annihilator
5. Adding a low level anti-air defense for the PHC and Substrate that upgrades to a better one.

But over time, you will see the distinction between the two grow.

## Philosphy on RTS game design ##
As some of our Founders can tell you, the design for Ashes of the Singularity was NOT to be like Supreme Commander. I once even posted on our forums that if you were hoping that Ashes would replace SupCom that you would be very disappointed.

So for example, I opposed, in Ashes, to have things like strategic zoom or more than 15 units per faction or lots of defensive buildings. I still am not sure having upgradeable buildings in the base game is a good idea but I feel like I've promised that to the community.

But why? The answer is that Ashes of the Singularity, at its heart, is supposed to be a next-generation RTS to introduce people to the RTS genre.

I read people saying that people should just buy "Supreme Commander: FA" or some other classic RTS. I'm obviously a big fan of Total Annihilation, SupCom, FAF, etc. but are you sure that's the game you really want to use to introduce someone to the genre?

The fact is, a lot of these great games do not work well (or at all) on modern hardware. The mouse cursor might not work or they crash if you're running at too high a resolution or they are no longer compatible with certain video cards and so on.

## Where Ashes will go and where Escalation will go ##
At a recent LAN party for core PC gamers who were NOT RTS players, I had to pick a game to introduce the RTS to them and that game was Company of Heroes. Not CoH 2 (or Ashes) but the original Company of Heroes (this is why marketing hates when I post, I'm recommending Company of Heroes as the best intro RTS game on the market <g>).

The only reason I didn't push Ashes was the hardware requirements. The 2GB video memory requirement was too much for a couple of them. If we could fix memory requirement that then Ashes would be a no-brainer. Alternatively, we can just wait until 2GB video cards are the norm.

If you take a fresh look at Ashes of the Singularity, not as a veteran RTS player but as someone looking to recommend an RTS to someone interested in the genre you'll (hopefully) note these things:

  1. It's pretty bullet proof. You install it on a new gaming PC and it just works.
  2. The game mechanics are straight forward. You capture regions and get their resources. You can then build up those regions and get more resources which lets you build more stuff.
  3. There is some action in the first few minutes (In TA or SupCom, it can be several minutes before you even get to see any boom boom boom).
  4. It's visually gorgeous (on a modern PC anyway).
  5. Losing isn't particularly frustrating. Losing due to a Turnium build up is not generally anger producing. Having someone finally beat you back to your base can actually be fun. By contrast, losing because someone nuked your commander or did a Reaper rush into your base or put barbed wire all over the map or having your entire army melt because you couldn't find your little unit with the right counter to activate its special EMP power and select the enemy unit that would be casting the melt army spell can be extremely frustrating to a new player.

That isn't to say Ashes is perfect. We should have had a mobile orbital nullifier unit in the game when it shipped. We didn't think of it at the time. But we will add that. But overall, Ashes is a really really good introduction to the genre.


By contrast...

Escalation is designed with RTS veterans in mind. We listened to the feedback and realized that Ashes couldn't be a one-size-fits all game.

I spend a lot of time reading RTS communities and the Ashes one is the best i've been apart of. You guys are amazing and your feedback has been extremely helpful. But we couldn't put those ideas and features into Ashes, the base game, even as DLC at any price because at that point, it's not Ashes of the Singularity anymore, it's a hard-core RTS game.

That's where Escalation came in. With Escalation, I am comfortable having strategic zoom (and in fact, it's layered strategic zoom like we did in Sins of a Solar Empire). I'm okay with having a lot more units and defenses.

Esc_SS2

Strategic Zoom in Escalation

That doesn't mean Ashes, the base game, won't eventually get naval units and more factions of course. None of our plans have changed with regards to the base game. We just want to be able to have a game that targets ALL PC gamers (Ashes) and a game that focuses on veteran RTS players (Escalation).


## How did Escalation get so much stuff so fast? ##
As the Founders know, our sales projection for Ashes of the Singularity were modest. As I posted in our Founders forum last year, our objective was to sell 50,000 units of Ashes of the Singularity before the end of 2016 (not counting OEM sales).

It's not that we didn't have confidence in our game. It's that the demographics are the demographics. 4 core CPUs + 2GB video memory as a base requirement cuts out most PC gamers. It's just that simple. Not many people can play Ashes of the Singularity.

When it became clear Ashes of the Singularity was going to more than double the projections, we beefed up the team. A lot.

  • Ashes of the Singularity = Oxide Games
  • Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation = Oxide Games + Stardock

 

So once we had a design down for Escalation we had a lot more people available to do stuff.
Anyway, I have more to say but can save it until later. This is already really long. Let me know if you have any questions.


-brad

Customize Your Game (Part 1): AI Options

Published on Tuesday, November 1, 2016 By Tatiora In Ashes Dev Journals

If you're like me, you're not a guru at real time strategy games.

If you're not like me, then I'm jealous.

I am the kind of person who needs a lot of practice in order to even resemble some level of competency in a game as massive as Ashes. With so much going on at once, it can be hard to understand where my weaknesses are - as well as my strengths - and what I can do to compensate for or take advantage of them.
 
Fortunately for me (and for anyone else new to RTS), the new Escalation expansion makes it easier to learn and practice thanks to the newly added map options and already existing AI options, which I'd like to highlight here. There is quite a lot to talk about, so part one will focus on the AI.
 
One of the advantages I don't have as a fairly new RTS player is being able to identify my enemy's strategies and build in order to defeat them. Admittedly, my first several playthroughs of Ashes were nothing more than clicking on a few of the same familiar units, hitting "repeat queue" and going about my merry way as I tried to collect enough resources to avoid crashing my entire economy.
 
Spoiler Alert: that didn't work for very long.

 Escalation 1

At any rate, the AI options for Escalation allow for a level of very specific practice. Instead of just the default AI and various difficulty levels, I can select "personalities" for my opponents that change the way they play against me.
 
While I'm not quite there yet, this has been helping me to gain a better understanding of how to counter certain types of tactics. By being able to focus on practicing against a certain "type" of player, I am also getting better at identifying what types of things signal my opponent’s strategic intent.
 
Let's take a look at the options:
 
Skirmisher
An AI that loves cheap units, lasers, and getting into battle.
The Skirmisher AI plays closest to what my personal strategy usually is - build lots of "little" units quickly, group them up, and conquer regions systematically. The problem is, I tend to bunch them all together and send them out in a single conglomerate mass, which usually leaves me wide open to attack when I’ve got nothing at my base save for a few defense turrets and a couple of overworked nanobots.
 
Playing against a Skirmisher AI has shown me how much stronger I can be with the smaller and cheaper units by building extra factories, splitting up into multiple, well-rounded armies, and scouting ahead before over committing.
 
Defender
An AI that believes a good offense starts with a good defense.
I have the hardest time with turtlers. They are much better at building up their bases than I am and they are so quick with their defensive systems that by the time I get an army of my smaller units there, they shred me to pieces when I finally arrive. I used to love turtles, and I suppose I still do in the cute little animal type context, but certainly not in Ashes.
 
To combat this, I have gotten better at managing my resources so that I can build bigger guns more quickly. While they're far from indestructible, a dreadnought hitting the battlefield is enough to rattle even the most bunkered down turtle-types. I have also found a particular affinity for taking to some air combat - sometimes, I get lucky, and my opponent has neglected to build up their anti-air defenses.

Bomber
An AI that prefers to use artillery bombardment. 
I still have some trouble with this one. While I am getting better at building heavy-hitters, I am still learning how best to defend against them. Sometimes, lots of small and cheap units early on can stave off this kind of problem for me, but that’s not always reliable.

I am learning to remember to use my orbitals and to build up as many turrets around my base and my newly conquered regions as I can. Oftentimes, I forget to leave anything to protect regions that are more valuable (I am always struggling to have enough radioactives to build the things that I want), so this has taught me to "leave my mark" as I divide and conquer.

 Escalation 2

Cruiser
An AI that targets enemy Nexuses early and often.
This hurts, no way around it. In fact, I remember my first game against a one Adam Biessener where I thought I was doing just dandy, only to discover that I had absolutely no defense against his "hit 'em hard and hit 'em early" strategy. Once I'd recovered from my embarrassment, I went into future games knowing full well that building some early game anti-air was imperative.
 
The Crusher type is really aggressive, and I haven't had too much practice against it yet. One of my major handicaps is my speed. While speed isn't the primary skill necessary for playing Ashes well, a level of familiarity with what units you want to build, what each unit does, and how best to combat the strategy of your opponent is critical for being able to make quick decisions and commit to your own plans. Playing more frequently against an aggressive AI like this has made me better at avoiding critical time-losing mistakes.
 
Drone Hiver
An AI that favors using drones in battle.
To be honest, until I started playing against the AI on this setting, I hadn't had too many encounters with people who used a lot of drones, including myself. I have, however, played enough Starcraft over the years to know what it's like to be "zerged" to death - let me tell you, those little alien buggers ain't got nothing on these drones!
 
I sometimes have a hard time focusing when a lot of things are going on at once, which is why RTS games can be difficult for me to keep pace in. When someone attacks you with drone swarms, there is a lot happening at once. Practicing against this AI mode has helped me learn to see the important things when under massive attacks (i.e.: the source of the drones) and stay calm under fire so that I am able to win more often.
 

In the next article, we'll cover the new map options in Escalation and how to use those to either help yourself practice, play a more relaxing game, or play something that will really challenge you.


Offworld Trading Company Update 6

Published on Thursday, October 27, 2016 By Island Dog In Offworld News

***RELEASED 10/27/16***
 

Features

  • Campaigns no longer auto-saved on defeat
  • HQs are auto-selected after founding
  • Added Include Ceres Location option for the campaign


Balance

  • On Ceres, Chem Labs now give an adjacency bonus to Nuke Plants
  • On Ceres, Glass Kilns get a 50% bonus on Salts


Fixes

  • Fixed items causing tutorial progress to be blocked.
  • Fix for joining a Ceres lobby without owning the DLC
  • Fix for popup buttons being oversized


AI

  • AI better handles Ceres maps in the campaign


UI

  • Menu UI updated to be more consistent
  • Featured Items show on the start screen
  • News ticker added to main menu for information and updates

Offworld Trading Company: The Patron and the Patriot released

Published on Thursday, October 27, 2016 By Island Dog In Press Releases (Offworld Trading)

Plymouth, MI. – October 27, 2016 - Stardock released The Patron and the Patriot (P&P) DLC for Offworld Trading Company today.

Developed by Mohawk Games, P&P adds colony classes, new campaign content, new characters, and six interactive stories that convey life on a newly colonized Mars.  

Designer Bob Thomas worked closely with Soren Johnson to bring greater immersion to the popular economic real-time strategy game. Features include:

  • Colony Class - Each colony now specializes in one area of the economy, altering local market conditions in a variety of ways.

  • Campaign Length - The campaign tournament can now last for 4, 7, or 10 games. Each length comes with its own balance tweaks and gameplay subtleties.

  • Wholesale Orders game mode - Not all colonies want you to build habitats and work modules for them. Now, some want your company to supply a variety of wholesale goods instead.

  • Two New Characters - New CEOs with new gameplay perks.

  • Story-Driven Campaigns - Six interactive short stories about life on Mars, available to experience through playing the new characters on each different length of campaign.

  • New Staffing Perks and Achievements

"Offworld Trading Company puts the player in the position of CEO of a company on Mars," said Soren Johnson, CEO of Mohawk Games. "Your opponents are other companies and your weapons are resources and market forces.  With The Patron and the Patriot, we wanted to further develop the immersion of the game's setting on Mars."

To that end, P&P's included short-stories flesh out what life on Mars means for colonists, workers, and corporate titans alike. These interactive stories are driven by the player's choices in the game.  This interactivity ties into the 17 new colony classes which impact local market conditions for players to deal with.  

Combined with the already compelling game mechanics of Offworld Trading Company, The Patron and the Patriot DLC fleshes out the setting and brings a new level of replayability to one of the most innovative strategy games released in recent years.

The Patron and the Patriot is only $4.99. For more information on Offworld Trading Company, visit www.offworldgame.com.

 

Screenshots:
Screenshot 1 | Screenshot 2 | Screenshot 3

 
 

# # #

 

Please contact press@stardock.com for all media inquiries.

About Stardock: Stardock is a developer and publisher of PC games and desktop software founded in 1991 by nationally recognized technology expert Brad Wardell. Located in Plymouth, Michigan, Stardock is a powerful leader in the video gaming and software development world.  Its PC games include Sins of a Solar Empire, the critically acclaimed Galactic Civilizations series, and Ashes of the Singularity. Stardock puts the user experience first through software that enriches the Windows experience for everyone from casual computer users to highly technical professionals. Products offered by Stardock include Start8, Start10, Fences, WindowBlinds, Multiplicity, and more at www.stardock.com.
 

About Mohawk Games:  Founded by acclaimed game designer Soren Johnson and developer Brad Wardell in 2013, Mohawk Games is built on the principles of iterative design, deep gameplay, and community involvement. Mohawk’s first title, Offworld Trading Company, is an economic war game set in the inner solar system. Learn more at www.mohawkgames.com.


Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation - Strategic Zoom

Published on Thursday, October 27, 2016 By rrfarmer2000 In Ashes Dev Journals

In this video we reveal the added larger maps, more players in a match, more gameplay options and the new "Strategic Zoom."

Players of “Sins of a Solar Empire” will feel right at home viewing the map at this long distance. Being able to set waypoints and queue up orders from farther out makes commanding much easier!

New game options will allow customization of exactly what type of rushes or limits you want on the game. Do you want to take regions with overwhelming force or have massive defenses? Try the new Entrenchment options! Don't want to worry about those sneaky Quanta abilities? Turn off Orbital Coverage altogether!

A few of the new map setup options:

  • Atmosphere: Turn off to disable air units.

  • Orbital Coverage: To disable Orbital Abilities

  • Nanobot Productivity: How fast buildings and units build.

  • Neutral Defenders: Random, light to heavy or completely off.

Stay tuned, we look forward to showing you many other improvements and new additions!

Order Ashes: Escalation today!

Escalation: Fact sheet and FAQ

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 By Draginol In Ashes Dev Journals

The Basics

  • Massive-scale real-time PC strategy game
  • Requires Windows 7, 8, 10 with 2GB video memory, DirectX 11 or DirectX 12, 4 CPU cores.
  • Stand-alone expansion to Ashes of the Singularity. Includes everything from the base game plus Escalation.

 

 

The Specs

image

 

The Screenshots

 Esc_SS1 Esc_SS3 Esc_SS2

The Details

12 new missions further chronicle the story of Ashes of the Singularity:

  • Campaign 1: Memories- See the events of Imminent Crisis from Haalee’s perspective and understand why she gave birth to the Substrate.
  • Campaign 2: Escalation- The PHC struggles to to fight the Substrate threat while internal rebellions threaten to break them apart.

Gameplay

Wage wars with more than a dozen players at once.

Strategic Zoom: Zoom out and the map changes to a new strategic map that shows a holographic display of the entire battlefield.  This will allow you better control of large groups of armies across the map. 

The Substrate use a new economic system that keeps them from wasting resources. They have unlimited storage, so they can gather infinite amounts of Metal and Radioactives for when they need them.

Game Options allow you to configure the world you want to play on. Explore 9 new map option sliders in both multiplayer and single player games. Configure the game you want to play by fighting on worlds without the atmosphere to support aircraft, increasing resource production, granting bonuses to entrenched armies, and more.

New Orbital Abilities

  • Orbital Jam (Substrate / PHC): Protects a large radial area from orbital abilities for a short period of time.
  • Nano-Mesh Armor (Substrate/ PHC): Provides an armor bonus to targeted units.
  • Nano-Transport (Substrate): Reinforcements automatically teleport to the army when they are created.
  • Emergency Turret (PHC): Call down a temporary turret to defend a region.
  • Rush Build (PHC): Doubles rate of production to give you a burst of resources.
  • Serpentine Turret (Substrate): This construct can be placed anywhere you have vision, allowing you to deploy it behind enemy lines or to set a trap for incoming forces.
  • Sapper (PHC): The Sapper can be inserted anywhere you have vision.  It builds small turrets that can harass or entrap enemy forces. 
  • Saboteur (Substrate): The Saboteur can be inserted anywhere you have vision. It specializes in destroying buildings -- use it to target your enemy's defenses or cripple their economy.

New Worlds

  • Crystal Worlds: Explore alien worlds covered in massive crystals.
  • Lava Worlds: Fight battles over volcanic pits on these burning worlds.
  • Huge map size: Even larger maps to conquer.
  • Multi-tier terrain: Get the high ground advantage with more levels available on maps. The terrain might keep you from being able to get to your enemy, or might provide excellent places to bombard your enemy from.
  • Dynamic Weather: Clouds and storm fronts will occasionally travel across the landscapes.

New Structures & Defenses

Buildings can be upgraded into more powerful forms. For example, Smarties can be upgraded into the new Barrager building.

PHC Advanced Sky Factory and Substrate Aviary that build advanced aircraft.

New turrets that allow you to better hold territory, harass enemy lines, and strengthen your defenses: 

  • Barrager (PHC): This upgrade from the Smarty Launcher has armor penetrating rockets that are effective against both air and ground units.
  • Constable (PHC): A cheap anti-air gun useful for a rapid deployment to quickly build up your defensive line or respond to a sneak attack.
  • Eliminator (PHC): The Eliminator takes out enemy aircraft with a single shot. Great against Strategic Bombers and Harbingers. 
  • Oblivion (PHC): This upgrade to the Artillery Post fires a single depleted uranium round whose kinetic energy is absolutely devastating to single targets. 
  • Odin Artillery (PHC): A long range gun with AOE rounds, useful for shelling groups of enemies from afar. 
  • Exterminator (Substrate): This expensive weapon is great for attacking both air and ground units.
  • Starburst(Substrate): A flak cannon that sends out a pulse of energy above it to damage groups of enemy aircraft. 
  • Disruptor Cannon(Substrate): This nasty cannon will absolutely melt incoming swarms of frigates.
  • Deadly Annihilator(Substrate): This upgrade to the Annihilator shoots endless streams of superheated plasma that does even more damage to both air and ground units.
  • Pulverizer(Substrate): This nasty creature fires a steady, long beam that does massive damage to everything in its path. 
  • Serpentine (Substrate): This construct can be placed anywhere you have vision, allowing you to deploy it behind enemy lines or to set a trap for incoming forces.
  • Sky Ender(Substrate): An expensive anti-air defense cannon that is great at taking down squadrons of enemy aircraft. 

 

Units

  • Hera (PHC): A giant tank sporting heavy armor and a really powerful gun. Useful for holding a defensive line against waves of enemies. 
  • Instigator (PHC): A fast unit that can harass and punish enemies that have spread out too quickly. 
  • Marauder (PHC): A large hovering gunship used to destroy enemy cruisers. 
  • Strategic Bomber (PHC): Send this bomber in to destroy your enemy's buildings with a single large explosion. 
  • Charon (PHC): Allows reinforcements to instantly teleport to whatever army it is part of.
  • Mobile Nullifier (PHC and Substrate): Late game unit that prevents enemy orbitals from acting on the army it is part of.
  • Caregiver (Substrate):  This unit boosts multiplies an army's strength by recharging its defenses.
  • Harbinger (Substrate): A flying unit specially designed to blow up your enemy's buildings.
  • Harvester (Substrate): A small unit that increases the amount of resources gathered, boosting your economy. 
  • Masochist (Substrate): Becomes more deadly the more it has been damaged. The perfect spoiler weapon. 
  • Rampager (Substrate): An evil looking thing that is great for destroy large numbers of small units. 

 

 

FAQ

Q: Why is Escalation a stand-alone expansion? Does this mean you’re abandoning Ashes of the Singularity?

No.  We definitely did not intend to create confusion by having two different purchase options.  What we want to do is have an entry-level way to get into Ashes of the Singularity where we could keep the gameplay close to its core vision: an approachable RTS for newcomers to the genre as well as veterans, and then have Escalation be for power users.

Right now, we sell both Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity ($19.99) and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion ($39.99) with the same idea in mind.  When it came time to do Escalation, it didn’t occur to us to release it any other way.

Q: So will the base game continue to receive updates?

Absolutely.  We will be updating Ashes for years to come both in terms of new DLC and content for those who prefer its more streamlined game play. We will also evolve Escalation to be more sophisticated.

Q: Was it always your plan to have Escalation and Ashes take on different roles?

No.  When we released Ashes of the Singularity, the comparisons with Supreme Commander brought in a lot of Supreme Commander fans as well as RTS gamers who wanted to see Ashes of the Singularity have more depth in terms of units and strategic management.  As our beta testers can attest, we strongly resisted this as we did not want Ashes of the Singularity to become a hard-core only game.  But, the fan advocacy for depth became irresistible and Escalation was born.

Q: Were you surprised at how successful Ashes of the Singularity has been?

Very.  Technically speaking, only a minority of PC gamers can even play Ashes of the Singularity.   Only a really small percentage of PC gamers who play strategy games have the hardware that Ashes requires.  As we would regularly remind our founders during the beta, Ashes had a very small budget (1/9th of Supreme Commander not counting Forged Alliance).

The original projected sales goal for Ashes was 50,000 units in its first year from release when we budgeted it.  That would have covered the core game development costs which would in turn allow us, over a period of years, to roll out new content to the game (naval units, more races, etc.).

Selling 100,000 units by the 6-month point (not counting the hundreds of thousands of OEM buyers via video cards), combined with the overwhelming demand that we flesh out the game in terms of depth, led us to increase the team size dramatically after release.

This may come as a shock, but the base game had only 4 developers and 2 artists (along with some contract modelers).

Remember, when we started this project, there was no DirectX 12, no Mantle, no Vulkan.  So we had to plan on a game that would only run on DirectX 11 for people with the absolute extreme of hardware requirements.  Obviously, if we knew there was going to be a DirectX 12 and a Vulkan, we would have had a bigger budget.

For Escalation, there are now 6 developers and 8 artists.  Still a relatively small team, but that is why Escalation has so much more in it so quickly.

Q: What about the people who bought Ashes of the Singularity for $49.99 when it first released?

We are going to give early adopters of Ashes of the Singularity a “season pass” to Escalation DLC that will last until the end of 2017.  That is, all new DLC created for Escalation they get for free (provided they register with us, as we need to know when they got the game in order to give them the DLC).

The Patron and The Patriot DLC

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 By Draginol In Offworld Dev Journals

otc_thepandp_page-background

Greetings!

We’re releasing the biggest DLC for Offworld Trading Company yet today.  It adds a lot of new content and is, btw, only $4.99.


The Campaign

The Patron and the Patriot is a DLC pack focused on enhancing the single player campaign mode within Offworld Trading Company.

The campaign mode that shipped with the base game operates like a competitive tournament that lasts for seven games. There are nine characters to play, each with their own set of perks. While playing games, your character earns new perks through victory bonuses, events, and via accumulating income that can be spent on perks of your choice. Your strategy applies not just to each individual game, but to your character's perk progression, which lets you tailor your strengths and weaknesses for use in later games to be played. Elimination rounds begin at game three, removing the weakest competitor from the tournament each week, until only four remain to compete in the finale, where stock buyouts eliminate the rest, leaving a sole survivor with a monopoly over all of Mars.

Upon this foundation, we have crafted enhancements designed to improve Breadth, Depth, and Immersion for campaign players who purchase The Patron and the Patriot.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_10Day_Campaign (1)

FEATURES

  • Colony Class - Each colony now specializes in one area of the economy, altering local market conditions in a variety of ways.
  • Campaign Length - The campaign tournament can now last for 4, 7, or 10 games. Each length comes with its own balance tweaks and gameplay subtleties.
  • Wholesale Orders game mode - Not all colonies want you to build habitats and work modules for them. Now some instead want your company to supply a variety of wholesale goods.
  • Two new Characters - New CEOs with new gameplay perks.
  • Story-Driven Campaigns - Six interactive short stories about life on Mars, available to experience through playing the new characters on each different length of campaign.
  • New Staffing Perks & New Achievements

 

Breadth

New Colony Classes

Early colonies on Mars had to be self-sufficient. They consisted only of generic habitat modules, which consume life support resources (and drive up prices on these resources), and workplace modules, which consume certain industrial resources.

Rapid colonization of the planet opens up opportunities for colonies to specialize, creating an interdependent web of trading partners amid a more sophisticated Martian economy. Now in addition to generic Habitat and Workplace modules, many colonies have customized module types, which consume different resources than the default types (driving up prices on a different set of commodities) and even in some cases producing resources (which actually drives prices down on those commodities). Custom module types require different materials for construction, which affects games where the colony desires companies to build more domes for them.

We have added 17 classes of colonies in The Patron and the Patriot. These now provide a wide field of localized market conditions, which you as player must anticipate and manage in order to succeed. There are also gameplay tweaks associated with each colony class, including local price controls on commodities produced by the colony and special rules unique to each class that may affect cost or availability of gameplay options.

 

Campaign Length

Changing the number of games played in the tournament affects perk progression. Since perks are the skeleton that gives shape to the body of a campaign, the new campaign lengths offer new opportunities for player strategy.

The shorter campaign length provides fewer opportunities to gain perks before the finale, so starting capital is increased. Players (and their AI opponents!) have the opportunity to make multiple staffing hires before the first game is played, allowing for a "jump right in" strategic experience that pays dividends quickly. With fewer elimination rounds, the number of opponents is reduced and opponents per game is reduced as well. There are fewer levels from which to choose, though, which may require you to play some more difficult scenarios.

The longer campaign length grants more opportunities for progression, but starts with a lot less cash to spend on perks and does not let you make permanent hires for the first couple of weeks. You must decide whether to spend heavily on temporary perks in the early going or try to save toward bigger purchases later. Any income earned from the early games will carry on longer, so this is no easy choice to make. Every game in the early going will pit you against three of your rivals, making for busier and more difficult games. There is more opportunity to recover from a bad game, though, and still press on toward ultimate victory. Near the end of the tournament, you must face more formidable opponents, who themselves have accumulated a high amount of perk progression and pose more threat to you.

 

Adding Depth

Game Modes: Colony Build vs Wholesale Orders

In Colony Build mode, you know what you're up against: need lots of Aluminum to build habitat domes and at least one construction resource for building workplace modules. In The Patron and the Patriot, colony class may affect which modules are available to construct, which can vary the resources you will need to provide. (Penal colonies, for instance, use Carbon instead of Aluminum for constructing their Prison modules.) So even for Colony Build mode, your company will need to become more versatile.

Wholesale Orders mode offers a much more dynamic challenge. The colony may request any of the commodity types. You will need to invest less cash than it takes to construct domes in Colony Build mode, but your material investments will be greater. The size of the orders grows throughout the game, requiring an ever-steeper resource cost. Some order types may be fixed, where the colony will want ever-larger orders for the same commodity. Other orders may be dynamic, where a randomly-chosen resource type will be needed for each successive order filled. Even the number of columns that will be fixed or dynamic changes from one game to the next, requiring your strategy to adapt to the individual market conditions of each game played.

Greater depth of strategy will be needed to succeed in this new, more dynamic Martian economy.

New Characters

In his youth, Doctor Mikhail Nekrasov discovered transparent aluminum, the first clear metal suitable for use in construction. Today he is rich beyond measure, but Mikhail is slowly losing his battle with ALS. A crime committed against him lured him to Mars. Fate may be what keeps him there.

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Dr. Nekrasov holds the patent for Transparent Aluminum, which permits him to substitute aluminum for glass in construction. As an indie developer, he can construct any HQ type. His company's mining, steel-making, and geothermal capabilities are unmatched, but his specializations leave weakness in other areas.

Manuel Valencia was the brightest star in a young group of investors helping to rebuild the global economy. His firm, Icarus Investments, was responsible for establishing Santiago as the financial center of South America. A failed gamble on his biggest trade cost Icarus a quarter of its assets. Clients fled and the firm was forced to shut its doors. Seeking a fresh start, Manuel has accepted an offer from Paulo Rubini to join Seneca and come to Mars.

Manny maintains good relations with many of his former clients. Some are willing to bet on his rise from the ashes, allowing him to maintain a strong bond rating and pay only half the cost (compared to others) for financing his short term debts. Manny has set up a Core Sampling division, which provides him one Core Sample perk per level of his local Headquarters. He has no staffing specializations, instead maintaining a versatile footing, from which he relies on his Core Samples to turn the resource tide in his favor at each colony.

 

Increasing Immersion

Story-Driven Campaigns

Six short stories have been written about life on Mars during the era of colonial expansion and economic diversification. The new colony class environment serves as the backdrop for these stories, while a fleet of colony ships sent from Earth to Mars during the optimum travel window (when the planets are near each other) explains why there will be a flurry of intense competition over the new colonies, which will culminate at a final game played at the last colony founded by the fleet.

The stories are driven in part by the player's choices. Interactivity is indirect: you will not face forks in the road where you choose the direct outcome of a story. Instead, the subplots and details of each story will mold themselves around the games that you play: your level selections, opponents faced, staffing perks, and victory or defeat in your games. You will journey with your character through playing the games, immersing yourself in life on Mars as you apply your strategies and struggle to obtain victory.

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Play the new CEOs to experience the stories. Each CEO has one story tied to each of the three campaign lengths, so you will need to win each campaign length twice (once for each new CEO) to experience all six stories to completion.

Replays of a story may yield new details not previously experienced, as different subplots or sections of background information are triggered by different player choices and game outcomes.

 

About the Designer

Bob Thomas, designer of The Patron and the Patriot, worked previously with lead designer Soren Johnson on Sid Meier's Civilization IV and other projects. Bob specializes in matters of game balance and replayability and has a background in writing. This talent set was well matched to the task of enhancing the campaign experience for our players.

 

The home page is www.offworldgame.com.  The Offworld Trading Co. Steam page is: http://store.steampowered.com/app/271240/.

 

Let us know what you think.

DEV DIARY: Black Market

Published on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 By Zultar327 In Offworld Dev Journals

Continuing the look back through OTC’s development, today we’ll be focusing on the Black Market.

The Black Market is a very familiar mechanic to anyone who’s played OTC for more than a couple hours. This is the tool that player’s have to directly and immediately interact with their opponents, by blowing up their key structures, disabling large sections of their headquarters, or sweeping all of their resources out of the sky. That’s why it might be surprising to learn that the Black Market wasn’t not initially part of Offworld’s design at all.

In fact, the Black Market originally was created because one playtester commented that “It would be cool if I could sabotage the other players’ buildings.” And from that thought, the Black Market came alive. And now that the idea was had, the iteration began.

And iterations there were. Some items have admittedly stayed relatively stagnant. The EMP shuts down a large area of stuff. Bribing a claim gives you an extra claim. Others have changed in dramatic ways. Pirates (I hate those filthy bandits) have gone through at least half a dozen versions in playable releases, varying in function (stealing vs exploding), form (ships vs a giant cannon), availability (auctions only vs Black Market tray), efficacy (200 units vs 100 units stolen), and consistency (%chance to steal vs cooldown).

Yet other items have shifted in other ways, with the ever popular Power Surge being a key example. Power surges were one frustrating area of randomness for players, specifically the way that they interacted with Goon Squads could be annoying. A Power Surge is placed on a tile then “bounces” to another adjacent tile. This used to be a completely random bounce, and if the surge hit a Goon Squaded tile (a “bad bounce”) the surge would stop immediately and reveal the Goons. These days the surge will not run into a Goon Squad until it has no other choice, significantly reducing the randomness of a Power Surge.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, is a change to the Black Market itself rather than the items it contains. Previously the Black Market was a constant set of seven items (and even before that a set of six). There were plenty of ideas for Black Market items that could be added, but if they were just thrown in with the others the design space would simply become too crowded. So when additional, more complicated tools were added (hologram, spy) a system was implemented to select a random group of Black Market items for each match. This allowed for the new items to be added, and increased the variance of a game of OTC in a way that was manageable and interesting for the players.

There’s plenty more to say on the history of the Black Market, and if you’re interested in finding out more I encourage you to take a look at Soren’s own musings on the subject, available here: http://www.designer-notes.com/?p=1127.

DEV Diary: Some Escalation highlights

Published on Friday, October 21, 2016 By Draginol In Ashes Dev Journals

For this journal, I’m going to, in story form, give you a guided tour of Escalation.

 

Background..

Escalation is the first expansion pack to Stardock’s massive-scale RTS, Ashes of the Singularity.  It is sold as a stand-alone expansion with its pricing determined based on whether you already have Ashes of the Singularity or not.  To learn more, visit www.ashesofthesingularity.com.

 

The year is 2180…

The human race is at an inflection point.  The technological singularity has given humans capabilities that a person form the 21st century could scarcely imagine.  A handful of humans have made the transition to becoming “Post-Humans”, beings whose very consciousness is spread across multiple worlds thanks to the breakthrough technology of “Quantum Streaming” which allows for instant communication across great distances.

The largest group of these Post-Humans have formed a group called the Post-Human Coalition, PHC.  Its goal is to map out suitable worlds to expand to ensure that no individual Post-Human comes to dominate the rest.  Unfortunately, some of the Post-Humans have taken a different path. These renegades, still ostensibly PHC members, look to claim worlds for themselves. They fight each other and they fight the PHC itself. 

Into this turmoil has come a new enemy: The Substrate. The strong AI that has evolved along side the Post-Humans has determined that the PHC and its members must be annihilated before their recklessness jeopardizes all.

The planet, Elysium

Escalation doubles the number of playable slots from 6 to 12.  Today on the planet Elysium, 12 factions will battle against each other for control of the world.  Elysium is a crystaline world, a planet class new to Escalation.

 

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Setting up with 12 players.

 

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Crystaline worlds have a violet hue to them.

 

 

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Escalation adds some new very low-tier defenses that can be upgraded.

 

 

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and further out

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and further

Meanwhile on Pollux

 

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The new PHC Instigator is constructed at the Nexus. It is expensive but is quite effective at taking lightly defended regions.

 

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late game, it remains easy to manage vast forces across the world thanks to the strategic zoom.

 

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From up here it seems peaceful. Sure, I’m red but having an enemy army in my base is so less scary from space. Winking smile

 

 

 

Deneb Revisited

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Weather

 

More to come..

Who is Stardock?

Published on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 By Frogboy In Star Control Journals

With Star Control: Origins announced, people are wondering who Stardock is and what we’re all about.  Many of you are already familiar with us but for those who aren’t, here’s a background.

Game History

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When you read the comments on Stardock’s history we’re best known for our work on Galactic Civilizations and Sins of a Solar Empire.  You will also see some people mention Elemental which had a rough launch but came back with its sequel and expansion (which were given to Elemental early adopters owners for free).

For Star Control: Origins, we have created a new studio.  It is made up by industry veterans from Firaxis, Big Huge Games, Relic and of course Stardock.  Because of the size of the project, Stardock has teamed its partner studios together: Stardock’s new Towson Maryland studio + Soren Johnson’s Mohawk Games (helping with the art direction, networking and design support) + Oxide Games (Nitrous game engine).  It’s an amazing team of people who know Star Control inside and out.

Our general development philosophy has been to work with gamers to make sure the final game is really good.  It’s probably for this reason that Stardock, as a publisher, has one of the highest metacritic averages in the industry.  You are not just a customer, you’re part of the team and we’re very excited to have you here.

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