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Sorcerer King: Rivals vs the original Sorcerer King

Published on Thursday, September 15, 2016 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

Once upon a time…

In the Summer of 2015, Stardock released a 4X-RPG hybrid called Sorcerer King.  The premise of the game was that after the events of Fallen Enchantress (or choose any fantasy 4X really) the bad guy (in this case, the Sorcerer King) had conquered the world.  The good guys had lost.

Not content with ruling the world, the Sorcerer King had begun to use a mysterious artifact known as the Bane of Curgen (an orb) to destroy the shards of Elemental to ascend to godhood.

Your role in Sorcerer King was to stop him.  To do that, you would raise and army, gather allies and confront the Sorcerer King in his fortress.

And this was super fun…for the first few times.

However, there are only so many times it’s fun to go kill fizban in his castle and Sorcerer King thus had limited replaybility.

Rivals: Your Turn

Over the past year, we gave some thought as to what would increase replayability without losing what makes Sorcerer King unique amongst 4X strategy games.  We hit upon the idea that the player should have the ability to become a god too.  In this way, we not only got to eliminate the Doomsday counter but instead gave the game more strategic depth without sacrificing the things that made Sorcerer King so special.

Below are a few key things that make Sorcerer King: Rivals different from Sorcerer King.


A New UI:


The first thing players will notice is that there’s a new UI.  We tried hard to not have to change it but ultimately, we realized that to do what we wanted to do, we had to redo the user interface.  For example, we want to support an unlimited number of world resources rather than the fixed number we had in Sorcerer King.  Similarly, since the object of the game now is to charge up the orb of power (the bane) and compel it to obey you, we would need a different way of presenting that.

Also, as we made neutral civilizations into potential rivals, we would need to highlight that aspect of the game.


Two new races


I don’t want to rag on Sorcerer King. It is still a good game. We made some assumptions when we designed it that didn’t lead it to have the diversity we hoped it would have in gameplay. 

Sorcerer King had 6 sovereigns to choose from. Which is nice. Here’s the issue, all 6 of them were sovereigns of the Kingdom.  In other words, there was ONE race in Sorcerer King and you always ruled the village of Athica.

We made this choice with the best of intentions: It was good for the story.  But it wasn’t good for replayability.

In Rivals, there are two more sovereigns but each sovereign leads its own completely new race which means they have their own units, buildings and spread their own environment across the world.

In other words, Sorcerer King had one race, Rivals has 3.



The most obvious difference is going to be the object of the game.  Now, you use up mana to ascend.  Doing so, however, makes everyone angry and go to war with you eventually so you have to be careful about when and how you do this.  Moreover, as the orb gets magically charged, new spells come into play.  By the end of the game, all hell will start to break loose. 

In play testing, we’ve seen new players think “Oh this is easy” and start to charge up the orb really early only to get crushed utterly because when you start staring into the abyss, it will begin to stare back at you.



The Sorcerer King also has some demigods as lieutenants. They are insanely powerful. Players of Sorcerer King who go to Rivals will soon notice there are a lot more of them.

Sharing your creations forever


All the games in the Elemental series have had some modding tools.  With Sorcerer King, it’s all been put out there for players along with the ability to share them.  As I’ve said to a number of friends, I could rebuild Ultima IV with this this engine.

People who remember Neverwinter Nights and its modding power will be happy to know that they have been given that power once again and, thanks to Steamworks (and eventually via GOG) the ability to share their creations.

If there is interest, we will vastly add on to this (all depends on sales of course).

How you can help


Game sites cover things that are popular already.  Stardock is an independent developer. In fact, we are, possibly, the oldest independent game developer left in the industry.  We don’t have a vast marketing team to go out and build coverage.  What you can do is spread the word. Word of mouth is king.  We want to keep working on Sorcerer King for years to come and with Rivals, we have a game that you and us can do just that. 

People who liked Sorcereer King are definitley going to like Rivals. It’s vastly better in every way.  There’s more of everything and a lot of attention to detail.

People who like 4X games in general or even classic RPG games will almost certainly like Rivals. 

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

A preview of Escalation at PCGamesN

Published on Thursday, September 15, 2016 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

PCGamesN has an exclusive preview of Stardock’s upcoming expansion pack to Ashes of the Singularity called Escalation.

IF I had a time machine, which I don’t…yet…I wish we could have called the game just Escalation. I love that title for an RTS.

Anyway check it out here:

Ashes: SEPTEMBER 2016 Dev Update

Published on Thursday, September 1, 2016 By Island Dog In Ashes Dev Journals

The Goal: Create the biggest, best real-time strategy game ever!

## Performance tuning ##

We haven't set up a specific version number for the next set of updates. Internally we're calling it the 1.5 series. But there's development and then there's marketing.

Right now, we're putting a lot of effort on performance tuning. Ashes is a big game and it's a new engine.

We would really like to get the base game of Ashes of the Singularity down to working on 1GB video cards as well as making sure it runs really well on 4K resolutions. 

While most of you reading this know your hardware, it's important to remember that most people have no idea other than insisting that their 3 year old PC is state of the art still and no amount of posting will persuade them that there 3 year old machine isn't a mega machine just because it plays GTA V just fine.

## The New Units ##

Both The PHC and the Substrate are going to get a mobile quantum jammer. It'll be a very expensive, very late game unit. It's not something players will be spamming out with all their armies. Instead, think of it as a T3-level costing unit that will be very hard to kill.

The problem we run into late game on the bigger maps is that you can nuke enemy armies to death as they cross. 

After the expansion is released, we want to bring over the Barrager upgradeable defense and the Heavy Annihlator so that there is a bit more turtling available to players.

## Escalation is coming!!! ##

Speaking of the expansion, Escalation is coming. This is the first expansion that adds:

  • 9 new units
  • 12 new defensive structures
  • Volcanic planets
  • Crystaline planets
  • Strategic zoom
  • A prequel single player campaign
  • Updated version of the Imminent crisis campaign
  • Escalation single player campaign
  • Doubles the number of players from 8 to 16
  • Doubles the maximum map size
  • Updated soundtrack
  • Changes to the Substrate economy system
  • Visual and UI update
  • Upgradable defenses
  • New orbital abilities
  • Substrate gains a Harvester unit that can steal resources from regions
  • New game setup options

It's $19.99 for Ashes players and $39.99 for new players.

It's being released as a stand-alone expansion. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we would have made this a DLC instead of stand-alone given some of the anger that we've seen regarding releasing the expansion as a stand-alone.

Somewhere between our release of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes and now expandalones have gone out of favor. 

We prefer explandalones for a variety of reasons. Mainly, it lets us have a new install directory. I wish I had a better reason than that but it didn't occur to us that anyone would care one way or the other since all the other RTS games do their expansions that way (StarCraft: Legacy of the Void, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, The various Dawn of War 2 expansions, the various CoH expansions, etc.

Anyway, lesson learned, people prefer their expansions released as DLC. We'll keep that in mind in the future. 

We're really excited about Escalation. We've listened to player feedback since release and created this in response.

It'll be released in November.

You can pre-order it here:

## Steam Reviews ##

I'm going to rant about Steam reviews for a second. I won't get into whether reviews are "fair" or not. They are what they are. 

Games with review scores less than 70% become "mixed" and that kills sales. Ashes is at 70%. You can read the reviews and decide if they're legitimate or not. 

What I can say is that the market is the market. Our ability to keep working on Ashes is dependent on sales. If people don't like Ashes, then it won't sell and that'll be the end of it. 

RTS's are expensive to develop. We want to continue to develop Ashes for years to come. But we can only do that if enough people want us to. While sales of the game remain quite strong, there is a very strong correlation between Steam reviews and sales.

The recent review score is based on 99 people's reviews. That's a tiny number of people. The game has only been reviewed by 1300 people. That's less than 1% of the player base.

## Increasing Replayability ##

One of the major projects for after version 1.6 (Fall) is to implement features that will further increase replayability.

The sandbox game is something we think is very strong. But Ashes isn't a 4X game which are the kings of strategy replayability. And while we love multiplayer, only a small percentage of people play Ashes multiplayer. We are adding more features for MP (such as replays) to help on that end. But we want people to want to play Ashes daily for years to come.

We'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

That's all for now!


Originally posted by Brad on the Steam forums.


Ceres Initiative DLC

Published on Monday, August 22, 2016 By Island Dog In Offworld Dev Journals

Originally posted by Soren Johnson on the Mohawk Games blog.


Today, we released the Ceres Initiative DLC, which is a entirely new location to play Offworld, with new terrain and even a new resource tree.

The rule changes are the following:

  • Resources diminish over time (a High resource tile becomes Medium and then Low)
  • Uranium is a new resource (it’s a metal, like Iron and Aluminum, so it is produced by with the Metal Mine)
  • New building: Nuclear Plants, which converts Uranium and Water into Power
  • New terrain: Salts, which boosts Farm production by 50%
  • New terrain: Caves, which gives mines, quarries, and pumps access to resources in adjacent tiles
  • New patent: Liquid Batteries, which allows Solar Condensers to work at night
  • Water Ice can be found on all maps
  • Days are shorter (9 hours), so buildings turn on and off more frequently, and debt can accumulate faster
  • No Wind Turbines, Geothermal Plant, Dust Storms, or Superconductor

New Ceres Initiative DLC takes you off Mars and brings new resources, buildings, and more!

Published on Monday, August 22, 2016 By Island Dog In Offworld News

Travel Beyond Mars in The Ceres Initiative DLC
The largest asteroid in the belt has chartered its first colony and there's money to be made...

Humanity proved that we could thrive on Mars… but, now we need to learn how to survive on a dead rock.
Enjoy the brand new scenery of Ceres while mining for Uranium, a resource unique to the landscape of the frozen asteroid.
Use it to power the new Nuclear Power Plant building and fuel your colony while you fight for
dominance of the stock market once again!


New Location: CeresThe largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, Ceres presents great challenges to colonization with its vast spans of ice and rock. Enjoy some new scenery as you crush your competition to remain on top of the stock market. Some of the terrain on Ceres also provides additional bonuses:

  • Salt Terrain: Farms produce 50% more food.
  • Cave Terrain: Mines, quarries, and pumps can access resources in adjacent tiles.

New Building: Nuclear Power PlantThe new power plant is an excellent source of energy for your colony and can be built on any tile. This building is powered by Uranium and is only available on Ceres.

New Challenge: Depleting Resources - On Ceres, resources deplete as they are used. Over time, your plots will start to decrease and you will need to be on the lookout for new resource points since even the best of them won't last forever.


New Resource: UraniumOnly available on Ceres, this mineable resource provides power to Power Plants and is just one more way to manipulate the stock market in your favor.

New Patent: Liquid BatteriesThis new patent could be critical to the success of your colony on Ceres. Liquid Batteries will allow you to keep your Solar Condenser running no matter what time of the day it is, collecting valuable water so you can keep your operations running smoothly.

The Ceres Initiative is now available on Steam or through Stardock 

Sorcerer King: Rivals Expansion Releases this September!

Published on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 By Island Dog In Sorcerer King News

Decide the fate of the world this September
in the new Sorcerer King: Rivals Standalone Expansion
Only you can save the world... or destroy it.

Stardock has revealed the stand-alone expansion for its fantasy 4X strategy game, Sorcerer King.  Sorcerer King: Rivals flips the original game's premise on its head by giving the player the ability to become a god with your rivals trying to stop you through any means necessary.

Rivals has two new playable races complete with new sovereigns, spells, units, and abilities. Three new lieutenants join the Sorcerer King's army, each with new and unique abilities to challenge you. A new quest editor and Steam Workshop support allows you to write your own epic quest lines and share them with other players around the world.

Sorcerer King: Rivals introduces some new and exciting content:

New Ascension Victory
Learn the Ascension spell and consume the shards before the Sorcerer King gets to them first. Amass ascension points to become a god before the Sorcerer King casts his spell, and win the game.

New Factions
Turn the land into frozen mountainsides and enhance your warriors as Bazzal the Dwarven King, Sovereign of the Frozen Realm faction or collect bone fragments from vanquished foes and raise armies of the undead with Valemor the Archmage, Sovereign of the Necromancer faction.

New Lieutenants
Three new lieutenants of the Sorcerer King wait to challenge you! Two lieutenants out of the list of five will appear randomly every game to oppose you. Face down against the Shadow Dragon Nabunihr, test your might against the Crystal Serpent Abeix, or train your bows on the great bird, Corvos, Bringer of Storms.


New Quests
Experience brand new adventure by embarking on never-before-seen quest lines! Enjoy the witty writing and light humor in the face of the world's destruction as you gather unique ingredients and recipes to craft better weapons and armor for your army.

New Quest Editor
Become the author of your own adventures with this user-friendly quest editor! Write the quest text, craft your decisions, and decide on the rewards. Your quest will automatically become part of the game when saved.

New Steam Workshop Support
Tightly integrated workshop support lets you easily share your creations with the rest of the world! Download maps and quests created by others and explore all of the new possibilities for adventure.

In Sorcerer King: Rivals you will be faced with new challenges of moral and heoric proportions. 

Will you save the world - or will you aid in its destruction?
Sorcerer King: Rivals will be available for pre-order on August 25th.

Sorcerer King: Rivals is now available for pre-order for $29.99,
or $14.99 for existing Sorcerer King owners.

For more information, check out 

Offworld Trading Company update 5 (ver 13492)

Published on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 By Derek Paxton In Offworld News

***RELEASED 8/11/2016***

Note: This update will break saves. You campaign progression and unlocks will be maintained, but saves in the middle of a game won't work.



  • Added an option to Turn Off Unprofitable Buildings
  • You can now speed up Daily Challenge games (if you want!)


  • Debt thresholds are higher in games with 5+ players
  • Increased effect of Power Shortages and Surpluses
  • Lowered starting Offworld prices for Food & Oxygen
  • Colony grows faster


  • Fix for the bug where you couldn't name the lobby when you created it
  • Better algorithm for holograms
  • Better piracy feedback
  • Shows resource lines when placing scientific buildings
  • More accurate Total Costs text for constructing buildings
  • When observing, can now see closest buyout percent for all players

Ashes of the Singularity: August update

Published on Monday, August 8, 2016 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

The goal: Create the biggest scale real-time strategy game ever

imageAshes of the Singularity is a real-time strategy game set in the not-so-distant future where a single person can control thousands of constructs (the distant descendants of today’s drones) in order to conquer an entire world. 

The world is broken up into regions with each region containing various resources that players capture and can then build up defenses, exploit the resources within and use as a staging area to conquer more of the world.

Little tiny ants

On the one hand, we want players to get a sense of the epic scale of these maps and see vast armies battling it out without turning them all into icons.  On the other hand, we want players to be engaged with the world so we’ve resisted getting too abstract with how we display everything.  Every unit in Ashes is unique with a specific role whose differences can be subtle. Hence, if we got too abstract, it becomes impossible to recognize the interplay between different unit mixes. One of the strengths of using Oxide’s Nitrous engine is that we can zoom way way out without hiding or abstracting units.  The downside is, of course, you zoom out enough and everything looks like “little tiny ants”



Hardware requirements

PHC_Indirect_LayerssThe other big challenge has been hardware requirements: Ashes of the Singularity v1.0 requires a video card with 2GB of video memory and a 4-core CPU with a display of 1920x1080 and 4GB of video memory.

According to the Steam hardware survey these requirements have consequences for us.

  1. The 4-core CPU requirement costs us 51% of the Steam user base right off the bat.
  2. The 2GB video memory eliminates 59% of the user base
  3. And the display resolution cuts out 53% of the user base.

It is safe to say that at least 70% of the Steam user base cannot currently run Ashes of the Singularity due to low hardware requirements.    Despite that, during the month of July Ashes of the Singularity past the 100,000 units sold mark.

We knew, long ago, that our hardware requirements would ensure that Ashes was a niche title on release.  It’s done substantially better than projected (in fact, it has done far better than it has any business doing given the hardware requirements and the genre). 

To put it in perspective, Ashes sales are at the top of the RTS charts for new 2016 releases despite not having a well known IP and costing $39.99.

Still, a goal of ours is to reduce the hardware requirements. That’s where version 1.3 comes in.

Version 1.3


On August 4 Ashes 1.3 was released and we are on the edge of being able to reduce the hardware requirements to  1GB of memory and a 2-core CPU.  We’re not there yet but we’re getting pretty close.  The one area we really need to work on is the minimum display resolution which is tricky given how generous we were in our UI design (generous to ourselves that is).

Some highlights of 1.3 include:

  • New unit physics system so that units can now turn on a dime and are exceptionally responsive.
  • New army organization system that breaks armies into companies if they are split up so that they don’t always have to be together in a single giant group
  • Updated pathfinding so that units don’t glomb up on each other
  • Updated UI across the board
  • 5 new (free) maps
  • Map ping for multiplayer
  • Various bug fixes and balance updates

It’s a pretty meaty update, particularly under the hood.  Someone who bought Ashes of the Singularity in May who hasn’t played it since and downloaded version 1.3 would discover that Ashes is a lot faster, a lot smarter, a lot prettier and has a much better campaign.  Too late for reviews but important for rewarding early adopters and fans.


Multiplayer: Season 2 begins

Season 1 is over and the winners are:



The ranked multiplayer in Ashes is similar to that of Hearthstone which probably isn’t surprising since it was designed by Adrian Luff who joined us after having been an architect of for twenty years. Of the top 10 players, 6 players were Substrate and 4 were PHC. 

You can explore the Metaverse by going here: This site also includes the DirectX 11/12 hardware performance results.



Single Player: What’s coming

Engineer_Web_LayersDespite Ashes having a pretty lively multiplayer community, over 95% of the player base only plays single player.  As in, they have never attempted to play multiplayer.  This is important for fans to understand because we often see people wanting us to spend more time on multiplayer features (something we tend to want to do because we play multiplayer). 

So often we have to make tough decisions on whether to put engineering time into features to help multiplayer or engineering time to support modding (we think a lot of people would love to make their own units or just share scenarios and maps with one another via Steamworks). 

For that reason, modding and sharing mods will make up a lot of our upcoming engineering time.  We want people to be able to make maps, units, scenarios, UI changes, buildings, terrain, etc. and share it easily withy one another.



Expansion News

PHC_Battery_Web_LayersThe first expansion for Ashes of the Singularity will be coming out this Fall.  It will be a stand-alone expansion (i.e. you won’t need to buy the base game).  This is the same thing we did with Sins of a Solar Empire and Fallen Enchantress and it worked well.  A new player would just buy the expandalone and get the base game and the expansion integrated.  DLC from the base game will migrate to the expansion (i.e. players won’t have to buy it again).

We also plan to allow people with the base game and the expansion (despite being different products) to be able to play together in multiplayer.  We don’t want to split the community and it gives us an opportunity, over time, to make the base game of Ashes of the Singularity a good introduction.

We’ll be announcing the expansion soon but in the meantime, here are some general details:

  • Will have three episodes (one of which is Imminent Crisis from the base game)
  • Lots of new defense buildings
  • New global abilities
  • Bigger map size
  • More players per map
  • Roughly a dozen new units
  • Game setup options
  • New types of worlds
  • Global view (similar to Strategic Zoom in GalCiv, SupCom, Sins)

There are a ton of other features as well but those features will be added to the base game as well for free.

The base price for the expandalone will be $39.99.  For a limited time, the upgrade price for existing players will be $14.99.


More soon!

GalCiv III's most popular DLC

Published on Monday, July 25, 2016 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

When it comes to DLC, what is popular is not always what one would expect.


To that end, here are the top 3 most popular GalCiv III DLC in terms of units sold per day average.


#1 Revenge of the Snathi


Not in a million years would I have guessed this.  The DLC that delivered the psychopathic squirrels that have been a gag in the GalCiv games for years as a major civilization takes the lead.


#2 Precursor Worlds


This is the one I would have guessed to be #1 and it’s not far off.  Precursor worlds adds all kinds of unique worlds that helps make exploring the galaxy very interesting.


#3 Mega events


The Mega events DLC gives you a bunch of cool, but rare, events that can very much change the course of a game.  Such mega events are always a tricky thing because who wants their strategy potentially disrupted by an unplanned invasion from another dimension?  The answer, apparently, is many thousands of GalCiv players.


What’s your favorite DLC? Let us know what you’d like to see next!

Ashes: JULY 2016 Dev Update

Published on Monday, July 4, 2016 By Island Dog In Ashes Dev Journals


Happy 4th of July!

Stardock is closed this week for its Summer vacation but I wanted to give you guys a general status report.

## SEASON 1 ##

With the Steam sale and the holiday, we have extended Season 1 to the end of July. We are in the process of contacting the top ranked players to set up a tournament for later this month which we plan to stream as many of the games as we can.


We plan to release version 1.24 of Ashes on July 14th. That version will mostly be bug fixes and and balance updates along with Observer mode in multiplayer.


We are seeing problems with certain video driver features that seem to cause some instability in the game. If you are running an app that is designed to "optimize" Ashes, we recommend you turn it off as odds are its optimization focuses mostly on the benchmark.

The dead give away is if you're running DirectX 12 and there seems to be lag when moving around the map. That indicates something has injected itself. The best way around it in my experience is to go to your system tray and unload and so-called experience/optimization apps. 


Version 1.24 will probably include some new performance improving code. That said, I strongly recommend people not bother with anti-aliasing. If it makes a visual difference for you that you can actually tell then by all means, use it but in my experience, it's not worth the extra video memory it consumes (and at above 1920x1080 it's ludicrious imo).


As predicted the Steam sale knocked our player review scores down. This almost always happens when a game is on sale since you have players who are not always the right fit for the game.

If you are an experience Ashes player, we ask that you take the time to review the game (pro or con). 


Most of the team is working on the first expansion pack. This will be somewhat akin to what Forged Alliance was for SupCom back in the day. More units, more players, bigger maps, more map types, better handling of armies, a Global view zoom out map and much more. 

We plan to have this expansion priced at near DLC levels initially to reward those who were early adopters before changing the price to its final price.

We also expect that some of the features of the expansion will make it into Ashes 1.5 which will be a free update for existing players (for example, anything we do to improve AI, modding, unit behavior, responsiveness, etc. would get put into 1.5).

So that's all for now. Let me know if you have any questions.



Originally posted by Brad on the Steam forums.

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