Offworld Trading Company heads to the asteroids

Published on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

If you don’t already have Offworld Trading Company and would like an RTS that focuses on economy, plays at the pace you want to play and has really intelligent AI players that you can configure you should definitely go grab Offworld Trading Company.

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The first major DLC was just released for it, The Ceres initiative.  The base game takes place on Mars.  By contrast, Ceres takes you to the largest asteroid in the Mars/Jupiter asteroid belt and adds new resources and structures.  From a replay point of view, it really changes things up because you’re battling diminishing resources.

Go grab it here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/511450/

Stardock is looking for some volunteers

Published on Monday, August 15, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

 

Stardock is setting up a number of Wiki pages:

 

  1. http://wiki.elementalgame.com

  2. http://wiki.ashesofthesingularity.com

  3. http://wiki.offworldgame.com

  4. http://wiki.galciv.com

  5. http://wiki.starcontrol.com

  6. http://wiki.sinsofasolarempire.com 

We're looking for volunteers to help flesh them out.  We can't promise payment but we will do our best to reward and thank active contributors.
 
Thanks!

Stardock is looking for some volunteers

Published on Monday, August 15, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes of the Singularity

Stardock is setting up a number of Wiki pages:

 

  1. http://wiki.elementalgame.com

  2. http://wiki.ashesofthesingularity.com

  3. http://wiki.offworldgame.com

  4. http://wiki.galciv.com

  5. http://wiki.starcontrol.com

  6. http://wiki.sinsofasolarempire.com 

We're looking for volunteers to help flesh them out.  We can't promise payment but we will do our best to reward and thank active contributors.
 
Thanks!

Ashes of the Singularity: August update

Published on Monday, August 08, 2016 By Brad Wardell 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

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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:

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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 Battle.net for twenty years. Of the top 10 players, 6 players were Substrate and 4 were PHC. 

You can explore the Metaverse by going here: http://www.ashesofthesingularity.com/metaverse. 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!

First World Problems: August 2016

Published on Sunday, August 07, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Everything Else

In no particular order.

 

  1. If the Roomba would just empty its bin on its own, it would be a completely autonomous vacuum system.
  2. I wish there was an AI bot that could just block posts and messages from friends when they’re about politics. I don’t care which monster you want to support. You’re still supporting a monster.
  3. There are not enough bike paths to my office here in Canton/Plymouth Michigan. Nothing reminds you of your mortality like having a car zip past you going 55mph mere inches from you.
  4. It is, literally, impossible to reduce the services you pay for via Comcast online. You have to call someone. This is so consumer unfriendly that you’d think the CPA could take time out of banning magnetic balls to do something about this.
  5. Verizon let me activate my iPad 2 to have cellular service.  But it provides no way to end it unless, wait for it, you call them.
  6. The Star Control team has gotten so big that we had to eliminate our gaming area to fit more desks.
  7. Twitter is already dead. It just doesn’t realize it yet.  They rely almost completely on mobile ad revenue and still lost $107 million last quarter (that’s just 3 months) and their user base is stagnate.  As soon as the iPhone/Android app bubble bursts, so will Twitter. Even with the buble they’re losing nearly a half billion a year.  Give me $10 million and I’ll build a much better BBS and I won’t even ban you for insulting a social justice warrior.
  8. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on Slack to be what ultimately kills (or buys) Twitter. Bookmark this.
  9. I ordered a Telsa Model X in May.  It’s now August. Still waiting. They seriously need to get their shit together if they want to be able become mainstream.  My Porche 911 Turbo didn’t take this long and it had to cross the ocean (which was fun to track the freighter).
  10. I really, really don’t like Steam’s review system. It’s so open to abuse and while you might think that it would affect every game equally, it doesn’t. Certain genres (and price ranges) are much more susceptible to it. 
  11. IMDB user reviews are starting to become worthless. Thanks to bots, crappy movies get amazing launch day review scores (looks darkly at Suicide Squad’s 8.1 rating when it first was released with 13,000 “ratings”).
  12. Geothermal cooling is better on paper than in practice. 

 

See you next month!

 

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Roombas everywhere

Published on Thursday, August 04, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Everything Else

I recently picked up a Roomba and am amazed at how far they have come.

Like many people, I followed the original release of the Roomba robotic vacuum it seemed kind of like a toy at the time.  No more.  It’s for real.

Right now, my office building spends about $1,600 a month on cleaning.  Now, vacuuming isn’t the main thing they do but it is a significant part of what they do.  It is tempting to just buy three high end Roombas (one per floor) and let them go and see if we could reduce our cleaning costs.

Roombas, and other devices like it, are the leading edge of the AI-based automation revolution that is starting.  If you aren’t scared, you should be. I know I am. 

GalCiv III’s most popular DLC

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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! www.galciv3.com

The problem with Twitter

Published on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Internet

imageYesterday, Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter.  The reason, ostensibly, was that he was targeting Leslie Jones, the actress in the recently released Ghostbusters reboot. It would probably be more accurate to say that it was “the last straw” from Twitter’s point of view given Milo’s engagement with Jones was relatively mild and no reasonable person would argue that Milo is responsible for the abuse his followers do. Twitter’s tolerance tends to be based on the politics of the user in question.

With that out of the way, there is no question whether Twitter, the company, has the right to run its service however it wants.  If it wants to become the hub of social justice warriors to tweet 250 character virtue signals, they can do that.  But here’s the rub: Twitter has repeatedly claimed it wants to become a universal messaging service – like a utility.  You can’t be a universal messaging service if you’re kicking people off for wrong-speech. 

I can say whatever I’d like on the Internet without once worrying whether Comcast or Verizon are going to cut off my service. Twitter, by contrast, not only engages in moderation but is frequently transparent in its politically selective enforcement. If they really wanted to solve this problem would be to provide more intelligent preferences to control who and how people can interact with each other (see every messaging service out there for examples).

The only realistic way Twitter becomes a viable business, and make no mistake, it’s not viable, is if it achieves its stated goal: a universal messaging service. It’s no where near that goal.

If Twitter wants to simply be a really piss poor BBS that’s certainly their prerogative.  But for those who are smugly trying to chide the “freedom of speech” folks for not making the distinction between the private and the public sector, they might well be reminded that it was Twitter that set the proposition that it was the “free speech” platform that was destined to become a utility

Inevitably, Twitter will go away. It’s architected (and thus costs to run) to be a universal messaging service but it’s execution is more like a bad subreddit.  You can’t rely on a service provider who might capriciously end your service.

First World Problems: July 2016

Published on Saturday, July 09, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Politics

In no particular order:

  1. People often lightly suggest that “you should sue X”. Lawsuits are multi-year arduous, tedious affairs.  My opinion is that the threshold for a lawsuit should be if you lived without civil society would you be willing to commit violence to achieve your objective? If no, then find another way.
  2. A customer of ours recently got banned on Wikipedia for aggressively defending me on my Wiki page.  Apparently he had been contributing for years. I feel somewhat responsible as I provided him with a screenshot that he used to prove the person trying to “right the wrongs of the world” by creating a narrative on my page had a bias. It’s a bummer that a guy who’s been contributing for years would just be summarily blocked.
  3. I’ve gotten back into biking. I am out of shape.  But it wouldn’t be a first world problem if I didn’t mention that I am glad I can order padded shorts from Amazon Prime.
  4. If you haven’t read SJWs always lie I recommend it for those who want to survive in today’s social media. One of the parts is “SJWs always project” which is very true. I was reading, with interest, the wiki admins arguing over my Wikipedia page with one of them swearing it was me doing the edits.  For the record, I didn’t create the wiki page on me. I didn’t ask for one. I didn’t want one.  I wish there was no Wikipedia page on me. Since the day someone made it, it has been a non-stop struggle to keep disgruntled customers and SJWs from using it as a blunt instrument to defame me.  I appreciate the fact that there are plenty of good people willing to take time to maintain the page.  The fact that some SJWs assume anyone supporting me must be a sock puppet says a lot about them. Not to put too fine a point on it but if I was that motivated “I have people”.  For me, what I am interested in is whether people are willing to voluntarily push back against SJWs..or not.
  5. Speaking of Wikipedia and social media in general, SJWs will always have the advantage since they are typically unencumbered by a job.
  6. And speaking of SJWs, my sons hate when I use that term.  And not without some irony, I will point to the Wikipedia definition of a SJW. Their entry is steeped with the bias of Wikipedia editors. But basically it’s people who espouse, passionately, support for “the correct causes” on social media but do nothing material to follow up as their motivation is merely to display how virtuous they are to their peers.
  7. Steam sale is over. We did about 20% better than last year. We would have done better but Valve implemented a “recent user review score” which I will refer to as the “Sale penalty score” since people buying a game on sale will tend to review it based on whether they would have paid full price for it (even though they obviously wouldn’t have or they would have already bought it).
  8. I have very little opinion on the #blacklivesmatter thing other than to point out that in 2015, about 1000 people, total, were killed by police of which African Americans made up around a quarter of them. Meanwhile, in third world countries, death tolls are measured differently. This doesn’t diminish the impression that too often, militarized police forces are too willing to use lethal force but only to provide some perspective.
  9. Three solar panels on my solar array are dead or the microinverter has died.  It’s remarkably tedious to get something like that fixed.
  10. Everyone seems to know that a single Tesla owner died in their car while the car was operating under Autopilot.  I have little to add to that except that people die daily from messing with their cell phones (Oh look, a Pokémon, oh look a text, oh look an invite) while driving.

That’s all for this month. Smile

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