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.