Brad Wardell's Blog


Fences V4 Wishlist

Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Fences

As we work on the next version of Fences, we are interested in getting your feedback on what you'd like to see.

We are particularly interested in features that will make Fences more useful in your work and enterprise environment.  

Please comment below with any ideas and suggestions you might have.

Thanks!

Game Development jobs at Stardock

Published on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Stardockians

Are you a software developer interested in working in the game industry? Are you a talented artist with a great eye for making games with a distinctive look and feel? If so, make sure you check out some of the positions available at Stardock

Stardock has been around 25 years with the average employee having worked here for over 5 years.  It's an environment that encourages innovation, career growth and is just plain a fun place to work.

Today's highlighted position: Game Developer

Stardock is trying to fill up engineering spots at its Plymouth Michigan studio.  The position would involve working on cutting edge games as well as helping us bring our games to other platforms.  

Primary Responsibilities Include:
  • Write gameplay code and UI code.
  • Scripting and helping create quests and campaigns.
  • Improving engineering skills.
Education and/or Experience Desired:
  • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics or equivalent work experience.
  • A passion for gaming and game design.
  • Self-motivated, likes to identify and solve problems.
  • Strong C++ background.

If you're enthusiastic about the position and would like to tell us about it, please submit your resume and cover letter to jobs@stardock.com, with "Game Developer" in the subject line.

 

6 Errors of the Tech Entrepreneur

Published on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Stardock!  As the founder, President, and CEO of the company starting from the time I was a college student, I've made a ton of mistakes that you can learn from. Below is a list of both small and large errors I have made over the years.

#1 Computer Hardware becomes worthless

It is really difficult to admit that a perfectly good monitor, keyboard, mouse - or even PC - eventually becomes worthless.  Over the years, I tried to find increasingly ridiculous uses for old hardware simply because I couldn't stand the wastage. If you have a company of more than 100 people for enough time, you can imagine how much old hardware stacks up. 

Sure, you can donate some of it, or try putting pieces on eBay, but for the most part, you will spend far more time than it's worth trying to find a purpose for it once it is ready to be put out to pasture.

#2 There is no perfect office setup

We have spent countless thousands of dollars over the years on "Office Systems".  These are desks, cube walls, and all kinds of other things that are designed to create an efficient, yet comfortable, environment for your colleagues.  There are some great articles out there with many different ideas. However, you will find that these ideas come and go based on how fast technology is moving.  

Incidentally, once used, these office systems are worthless from a resale value.  When times change, just bite the bullet and be prepared to invest in a new "system".

#3 It is better to own a piece of a valuable thing than all of a worthless thing

In my younger days, I frequently made the mistake that I see countless entrepreneurs still making. It isn't the percentage you own of something that matters - it is the value of what you own that does. 

One of my favorite stories is the story behind Impulse.  Stardock was the first company to engage in what we now call digital distribution. Defined as being able to purchase, download, and install a piece of content (a game, a piece of software) from an integrated app store, Stardock in 1998 was way ahead of its time.  The very first game that was released at retail and digitally was Galactic Civilizations in 2003. 

Seems smart so far, right?

During this period, we had numerous requests to invest in us, but I said no because I didn't want to give up stock to "strangers" (this is one of those issues of having grown up poor; I was very unsophisticated in business early on). 

Using our own profits, we built up what became Impulse. Despite it having a multi-year lead in both technology and market availability, it ultimately was eclipsed by Steam, which had vastly more capital available to it (and more importantly, Half-Life II).  Ultimately, we sold Impulse to GameStop, which did bring a tremendous return on our investment, but still nothing compared to what it could have been had I been more sophisticated when it mattered.

Capital is king.

#4 It's a business, not a cause

Most Entrepreneurs I've met are driven by something.  In my case, I was animated by a desire to see IBM's OS/2 succeed.  Stardock nearly went bankrupt in the 1990's because, despite knowing that Windows was going to obliterate OS/2 in the long-run, I was emotionally invested in OS/2.  Luckily, we survived this folly, but only barely.  Despite Windows NT 4.0 coming out in 1996, Stardock didn't migrate to Windows until three years after, which is an eternity in the technology industry.

#5 Attitude matters more than talent

I have made many bad hiring decisions over the years.  To the point that I rarely, if ever, get involved in hiring.  As CEO, my job is to find and recruit people more talented than I am (which admittedly is a low bar...), but that isn't the same thing as hiring them. If we define talent as "intelligence x conscientiousness x experience," then we will define "attitude" as their ability to act as a force multiplier on the organization. 

People who know me will tell you that I have a distinct lack of insight into people's character.  That is, I tend to like everyone I meet and if they are talented, I tend to fixate on that. This is why in the past decade or so, after the recruiting process, I largely step aside to let people with greater empathy and insight evaluate the potential new colleague.

However, no matter how talented a person is, if they are toxic to your organization, they can actually reduce your company's overall productivity. If you have a hard time judging the attitude of someone, get a good HR manager who can.  Your job as an entrepreneur is to identify talent and recruit them. But it is not a requirement that you are able to determine if they're a good fit. 

#6 Know when to let go

I literally grew up in a dying steel town.  Seeing the parents of friends lose their jobs in Detroit during the 1970's and 1980's had a significant impact on my attitude toward laying people off.  This attitude nearly ruined Stardock when we moved from OS/2 to Windows because we had to let a lot of people go in order to make that transition, and I was just not prepared to do that. 

Rather than laying off a few people early on, I ended up being forced to lay off a lot more people later on instead in order to migrate the company from OS/2 to Windows. If I had simply made the hard decision early rather than waiting, I could have saved several jobs (and several friendships).

If you ask someone in banking who has dealt with "work out," the #1 cause of businesses failing is not being able to downsize employees.  The companies will cut all kinds of pointless things ("Let's get rid of air conditioning!") to save pennies when the the right call is really to let someone go.

In the technology industry, layoffs are particularly aggressive because of its rapid evolution.  Let me give you a really obvious example.  For much of my career, I had an "Executive Planner".  This was a person whose job was largely to keep me on schedule.  I remember when Soren and I were starting up Mohawk and on my first visit with him I brought my Planner with me.  She was very organized, very professional, and personable. But now, just 5 years later, it would be ludicrous to bring on a human being to do what my iPhone or Surface can do far better.

Lots of permanent jobs have gone away as we have specialized or automated ourselves.  Only you can decide where to draw the line on keeping people who have been with you many years, but whose jobs are no longer make sense in your business, or having to make a painful cut. But knowing where to draw the line might mean the difference between success or failure for your business.

Galactic Civilizations III AAR: The Heroes of Star Control: Origins test game

Published on Sunday, November 11, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

As the Tywom like to say, HELLO, BEST FRIENDS!

Just playing the start of a new GalCiv III v3.1 game with the Star Control DLC added.  Let's take a look at what we can expect.

The Setup

Players have been asking for a way to customize the colors further than what was possible before and now they can do it.  So if you're into ship designing, you're in for a real treat!

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Here is my super tame but very custom color scheme.

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  Just starting up my game here with my custom civilization "Little Tiny Frogs".

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I soon meet the Tywom, but without a universal translator, there's know way to know what they're saying yet.

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The Mu'Kay are very much into "federation" building.   Keep an eye on them.

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The cute but dangerous Mowlings are in.  As cuddly as they are, they start with the most powerful starting-unit in the game: Jeff.  Luckily, they are peaceful.

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The United Planets.  This is where you can see how the art style of the Star Control aliens got tweaked a bit to fit in better with the GalCiv style.

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It doesn't take long for the the ever aggressive Drengin and Yor and Krynn to begin going to war.  Just keep in mind that in Galactic Civilizations, the civilizations try to act rationally and towards their unique traits.  That means: If you add the heroes from Star Control into your game, you will want to mix them up with some baddies.

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The Mowlings are not shy about asking for help if they need it.

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My spies give me a lookout on the Tywom home world.  Take a close look at their citizens!

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Meanwhile, the new ship parts (which are animated) allow the Mu'Kay ships to get a pretty distinctive style.

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Speaking of cool ship styles.  The Mowlings may have the best ship design I've seen in the game yet.  They're relatable yet still somewhat alien.

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As I stop for the day, my observers spot two fleets of Mu'Kay ships heading towards Drengi.  Don't underestimate the Mu'Kay!

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The end of the Drengin Empire...

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I think you guys are going to like this.  The changes in v3.1 that are also being released should make this a pretty special update.

Sneak Preview: Galactic Civilizations III - Heroes of Star Control: Origins

Published on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

This upcoming Monday, Stardock will be releasing a new DLC for its massive space strategy game, Galactic Civilizations III.

The new DLC, Heroes of Star Control: Origins, will introduce 4 new major civilizations to play as complete with their own ship styles, parts, new traits, diplomatic behaviors, and AI for $5.99. 

It'll be available to purchase on Steam, GOG, and of course GalCiv3.com, starting Monday afternoon EST, November 12.

About Galactic Civilizations

Galactic Civilizations is 4X strategy game set in the 23rd century. Having recently acquired faster-than-light travel, players are now in a race to explore and expand their civilization into the galaxy where they will research new technology, build up their planets, fight wars, negotiate treaties, trade goods and determine the destiny of the future of their people. Learn more at www.galciv3.com.

About Star Control: Origins

Star Control is an action adventure game putting the player in command of Earth's most advanced starship with the mission to save Earth.  It is a reboot of the classic Star Control franchise from the 1990s that introduces new species, new challenges and a rich deep universe to explore.  Star Control: Origins was just released and is available at www.starcontrol.com.

Screenshots:

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Star Control: Road Map 2018

Published on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

Star Control: Origins is just the beginning of our journey.  This post will give you tentative schedule of what we have in the works going forward:

Fall 2018:

Season Pass: <to be announced>.  Series of new adventures that will begin rolling out this Fall. 

Episode 1: Aftermath.

Version 1.2.  Lots of usability tweaks, some new quests, performance and more.

Version 1.3.  More usability improvements, additional quests, more modding features, Vulkan support (possibly).

Winter 2018:

Version 1.4.  Additional new features, UI updates, new components, new ships. Network update.

Episode 2: The Lexites

Spring 2019:

Version 1.5. Lore based quests (doesn't require you to replay).

Episode 3: The Syndicate

Episode 4: <TBD>

Broadly speaking, our goal is to begin integrating more of the lore into the game so that players get a better idea of things that are coming in the future such as much bigger ships, landing parties, water worlds, helping colonies, helping friends and hurting enemies on a bit more strategic level (not as a strategy game, you are captain of one ship but you can make a difference).

It's a big, big universe out there.  And we are excited to keep sharing more and more of it with you!

Through the eyes of the Galactic gods

Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Over on the GalCiv III Steam page, I asked players to post their saved games so I could check them out.  And what I've been finding has been amazing and horrifying simultaneously.

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Players are able to do things that I wouldn't have thought of.  This is why saved games are so valuable.  Many times I get feedback from players who say "The AI needs to do X" and my answer is, "well of course, it already does that!" But there is some other thing that it has decided needs to be done instead and the trick is to find out why.  That's where save games come in.

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IceMania sent me a genius game where he's kicking the AI's butt.

Looking at the stats, the things I'm noticing is how aggressive (and how powerful) the relics are.  Not over-powered just  that he was good at getting them.

Now, let's look at the AI players...

The biggest difference I see is the # of citizens.  Human players tends to be much more aggressive at acquiring citizens than the AI. In this game, the player has acquired 13 citizens by turn 61.

Here is an AI player on the same turn:

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Look at that production difference.

Another big area I'm seeing is that top players are extremely good at expanding.  Seeing players with over 10 colonies in 60 turns makes me a bit sad because it means that we still haven't done enough to reward playing tall.

I'll be updating this entry as I go through more saves...

My first mod

Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Modding

This is a really simple one.  I made a new star system (Ross 248).  

Once I was done, it showed up automatically in the Multiverse and the "upload" button appeared allowing me to share it with others.

The Multiverse DLC is expected to go out next week.

 

 

 

 

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