Ashes Dev Update: October 2016

Published on Friday, September 30, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals


Fall is here in the northern hemisphere. Time to migrate to Australia!

Here's what's new…


## Version 1.5 ##

I am hoping that version 1.5 will arrive before Halloween. It's going to be tight. Lots of work going on. I'll outline below some of the focus.


## UI ##

According to the Steam data, 28% of our players are playing at below 1920x1080 and the text and such looks awful. Unreadable imo. We are updating how the the game is displayed which should, we hope, result in a dramatic improvement to how the text, UI and really the game itself looks.


## Balance update ##

The Substrate are going to get a bit more love on the building destruction side. The PHC is going to get a bit of a nerf. We are also looking at porting back some of the work we've done in Escalation for the Substrate economy which should make them a bit different.


## Performance ##

Hopefully some of you noticed the significant performance boost in the September update. We are continuing down that path with version 1.5.


## Keyboard ##

High on our list is getting WASD keyboard support options in. I don't know if they'll make it into 1.5 or not. But it is coming.


## Vulkan ##

This is now working in our internal builds! This might show up in 1.5. AMD is providing a lot of assistance to us in getting Vulkan support so please be sure to give some kudos and credit to AMD for Vulkan in PC gaming. It'll run great on any GPU that supports Vulkan.


## Replays ##

This won't happen until after the Escalation expansion. We wanted to get this into 1.5 but it's a pretty big job. But it is coming.


## Scenario Creator & Steam Workhop ##

While probably not for 1.5, we are putting the final touches on a GUI Scenario editor. Lucky you guys. I had to make scenarios in a text editor. This will be in a free update that will include Steam Workshop support.


## Names Names Names ##

The mobile orbital nullifiers for PHC and Substrate need names. Put your suggestions in the comments.


## Reviews ##

We really could use your help on the reviews. We took a pretty big hit when people started down voting Ashes because they thought Escalation was a replacement to Ashes (it's not).

We are talking to Valve as to whether it'll be possible to turn Escalation into DLC so that it eliminates any confusion and we develop a game launcher that lets you pick the base game or Escalation. We prefer being able to use the Steam client as the launcher but given the backlast against expandalones, we're willing to spend the time and budget on writing our own launcher if that makes people happy.

Anyway, if you haven't reviewed the game on Steam, your review will absolutely make a difference.

That's all for now!


Dev Journal SK: Optimizing a big big world in Sorcerer King: Rivals

Published on Friday, September 30, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

I had the opportunity to get a saved game from a player who was experiencing long turn times.  This was extremely useful because it’s one of those things you “hear” about sometimes but it “never happens on my machine”.

I was able to reproduce it and the results were fascinating.



A huge part of the cost was recalculating those zones of control.  This is something that has always been in there (going all the way back to Elemental) but over time, it appears to have got more and more expensive as we have added more “stuff” such as the ruffians getting to have their own ZOC.

People sending me their saved games is like giving me gold.

I really enjoy seeing how other people play and it does more than anything to help us make the game better.  I think you’ll be impressed with the improvements we’ve made to Rivals.

I do plan to backport these changes to base Sorcerer King in the future.

Sorcerer King and his Rivals

Published on Monday, September 26, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

SK-ReviewBannerPC gaming, at some point in the past year or two, has changed from expecting expansion packs to be offered as an integrated product to demanding they be released as DLC.  Sorcerer King: Rivals stumbled into this brave new world.

Our story so far:

Last year, we released a fantasy 4X/RPG game called Sorcerer King.  It takes place in our Elemental game universe and is a combination of a 4X strategy game with RPG elements.  It’s a really fun game. In that game, you start with a village in a world that has already been conquered by the title character.  Seeing that the Sorcerer King now wants to become a god, you must raise up an army, gather allies and confront the Sorcerer King at his fortress.  And, like I said, it was fun.

But, it had one big issue: Replayability.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if it were a $15 game but in a $40 game that wasn’t a dedicated RPG, it was a problem.  So over the past year, we thought about what we could do to address that.  The solution came in 3 parts:

  1. We needed to add more races to the game to play as
  2. We needed to to make the neutral factions more relevant
  3. We needed to give the player agency in the game: let them be able to win the game through their civilization

Ultimately, we combined this together into Rivals, an expansion pack. 



We’re very happy with how the game has turned out.  There are a number of things on my wish list I’d like to add (in particular, I’d like to make the neutrals into major factions so that they too can try to become gods).  But like all things, it depends on sales.



Mmm. Dungeons.

The first update

Today we released the first update to the game that fixes some typos and game balance stuff.  I also made a few AI tweaks to make the neutrals more intelligent.   I am hopeful that players will like what we’ve done with Sorcerer King: Rivals though the jury is out on that of course.

Let me know what your thoughts Sorcerer King: Rivals and what you’d like to see next.

Fire and RTS gaming: September 2016

Published on Monday, September 26, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals


Engineers are terrible at marketing.  We really are. 

If you’re playing Ashes of the Singularity, you may have noticed we updated the game last week. A minor update with some major changes.  Under the covers, Nitrous got a pretty big boost.  But because it doesn’t add features, it didn’t get a lot of attention.  But performance wise, it was the result of months of optimization.

Making the largest scale RTS of all time is a big challenge in 2016.  My friend, Chris Taylor, arguably still holds the record with Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.  Our friends at Uber did something pretty neat with Planetary Annihilation but they had a few things working against them not the least being timing: The audience was on the cusp of changing from single core GPU engines to multi-core.  I would argue that Ashes is just barely at the right time because its hardware requirements have meant that only the very top end PC hardware enthusiasts who just so happen to like RTS games are going to buy Ashes of the Singularity.

The most obvious challenge in the past few years has been the dramatic diminishment of budget.  Supreme Commander 1 had a budget of around $20 million or so.  It’s hard to even fathom that kind of budget today.  2007 was a different world.  THQ could get Supreme Commander onto store shelves and most stores had fewer than 40 SCUs (40 different games).

Do you remember?

Do you remember when you had only a couple dozen choices for buying a game?  That was the world of PC gaming back in 2007.  And so PC games had much larger budgets than we have today.

By contrast, today, a new game has to compete with everything that has come before.  Why should you buy Ashes of the Singularity when you can buy Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance for $14.99? A fully realized game.  Sure, it was released in 2007 but it holds up well.  

Today, we work on smaller budgets.  Much, much smaller budgets.  But what we lack in budget we can make up with perseverance. At least, theoretically.  If people don’t buy the game, for whatever reason, we’d have to assign those developers and artists to a different game (if you haven’t reviewed Ashes please feel free to do so.  But we have the advantage of both professional developers and artists on hand and a state or the art engine and a passion to work on the game.

When I see someone say “You shouldn’t buy this, go play Supreme Commander: FA” I groan a little since, as anyone reading this knows, there will never be another Supreme Commander game. Ever. Whereas, every cent we get we put back into Ashes.  We didn’t have $20 million, we had less than $3 million. And with that, we’ve made something pretty amazing. 


So the first expansion pack is due for Ashes.  If I had a time machine, I’d do it as a DLC since people seem to be confused about stand-alone expansions nowadays.  But for us, it’s just an expansion pack to Ashes that we are integrating with the base game for simplicity (i.e. buy X and get the best thing we have).  It’s a pretty big undertaking but we think it will help make Ashes the modern RTS to beat.  It’s just so…good.  We’ll be doing videos soon.


Sorry to ramble.  Just a busy Monday night over here in Plymouth Michigan.  Tomorrow, I fly over to Towson Maryland to check out how things are going with Star Control

Ashes of the Singularity: Tournament

Published on Sunday, September 25, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes of the Singularity

Hey guys.

Wanted to get some feedback from you as to whether you think this would be a good idea or not.

After Escalation ships, we are considering creating a multiplayer only edition of Ashes of the Singularity (Tournament).  You wouldn't be able to buy this version.  Instead, everyone who buys either Ashes of the Singularity or Escalation would get 8 keys to give out to people.  Those people could then download the Tournament edition.

They'd only be able to play online (they couldn't host games but they could join custom games as well as join quick match / ranked games.

In doing this, we think we'd be able to build up the MP player base so that we could have more MP options.

However, the risk is that we would be potentially losing out on sales which is what funds continued Ashes development.

What are your thoughts?

Sorcerer King: Rivals Wishlist

Published on Sunday, September 25, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King

This is compiled list of actionable player requests we've gotten from the community.  Feel free to add your own.


  1. More types of resources with units that can make use of them
  2. More sophisticated Diplomacy
  3. More Campaigns
  4. New City improvements that use resources (like ones for logistics)
  5. Have a button under the Orb of Power that lets players directly cast the Spell of Ascendancy
  6. Have a repeatable skill that each champion gets when they max out their levels
  7. Create an infirmary where units killed can go to that you can buy to get them back (fully equipped), their equipment goes with them
  8. Expensive building (requires resources) that adds enchantment slots
  9. Option to disable ascendancy victory. Instead, player (or SK) becomes incredibly powerful when this happens
  10. Make the Neutral factions directly compete where they are all trying to ascend.
  11. Improve the tactical UI so that the abilities and items are easier to deal with
  12. Make the shard repair spell available to others as a rare spell they can research
  13. A separate tech tree with buildings that provide knowledge to get access to more powerful things.

Add yours here.

Sorcerer King: Rivals release day!

Published on Thursday, September 22, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals


Many years ago I wrote Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 in my dorm room in college. Some of you reading this may have even played it a long long time ago.

Following its success, I always wanted to make a fantasy strategy game. Our first try at it was somewhat of a disaster. We made this amazing, custom, fantasy 4X engine but we couldn't quite get the game right.  That game, of course, was Elemental: War of Magic.  I was so disappointed in it that we gave its sequel and expansion out to our fans for free.

Today, we're releasing a new fantasy 4X.  While it takes place in the world of Elemental, it has a different premise.  In Sorcerer King: Rivals, you can, in addition to the usual explore, expand, exploit and exterminate mechanics, ascend to godhood bit by bit.

When you play the game, if it feels like a mixture of Master of Magic and Populous, that's not a coincidence.  Those are two of my favorite games and I really wanted to capture that spirit as much as I could here with the time we had.  We've also included a bunch of modding tools so that you could, literally, recreate some of your fantasy RPGs.  So while Rivals is a strategy game, the engine supports making RPGs.

I’ve made a gameplay video of me playing it (badly):

The home page is and you can also get it on Steam and GOG. 

Go to: to download.

I will be doing a marathon stream of it today on Come hang out. We can talk about anything from PC gaming to OS/2. It's all good.

I also started a Dev diarty on modding if you're interested:

You can always reach me directly on Twitter @draginol

And here are some screenshots of it in action:





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