Brad Wardell's Blog

Post your rig setup

Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

I just got the Surface Pro 7 and I'm loving the power of USB 3.1 gen 2 (the USB-C port on the side).

I have everything connected via a single USB-C dock including two more monitors.

My main workstation is in the lower level.

Looking for WinCustomize volunteer news posters.

Published on Monday, November 18, 2019 By Brad Wardell In WinCustomize News

We are looking for some volunteers to help improve WinCustomize's news delivery.

Our mission is to bring you the latest, greatest news on everything related to the Windows user experience.  

Back when we were starting, what we now call "UX designers" were called "skinners" (not surprising that as what we do here got more respectable a more refined name would be used).

What are the kind of things we want to cover? Here are 3 examples.

  1. Interesting designs created around the net.  Example: this by this person.
  2. Interesting new Windows specific hardware like this review of the Surface Pro X.
  3. Interesting things created by the WinCustomize community you want to draw attention to.


  1. Must have had an account here for at least 90 days already.
  2. Must be a good writer.

If you're interested, DM me.


Microsoft Fluent Design site

Published on Monday, November 18, 2019 By Brad Wardell In WinCustomize News

If you're interested in UX design, you will definitely want to keep up with what Microsoft is update to. 

Fluent is the name of Microsoft's new design language for Windows.

Here is an example of Fluent design in action.

As we get up for a major WinCustomize revamp, we are going to be taking cues from this design language to make the site more accessible, faster (much faster) and more modern.  Stay tuned.

Stardock Dreams Getting Updated

Published on Monday, November 18, 2019 By Brad Wardell In WinCustomize News

If you like animated backgrounds we have good news for you.  Stardock is in the process of updating its DeskScapes dream files to support MP4 (previously MPEG2) which should result in far lower CPU use and no additional codec downloading for Windows 10.

You will be able to see the updates here:


Object Desktop 2020 Wishlist thread

Published on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Object Desktop

Object Desktop

This past year we've been recruiting developers to begin doing some major updates to Object Desktop over the next year.  

First, I'm going to post what our thoughts are on what to focus on but then we want to hear what you would like to see updated.  As always, our choices are determined by a combination of factors including technical challenge and market demand.

Definitely getting big updates next year




Keyboard LaunchPad


New Apps

We have three new programs for Object Desktop slated for release next year

Maybe getting big updates IF there's demand




On the bubble (for getting major update)

WindowBlinds (usage of desktop skinning is becoming less common and skinning  has gotten more and more complicated). What would go into v11?

IconPackager (making icons today is a lot of work due to resolution and most people don't bother changing them anymore)

What are your thoughts?

What do you use Object Desktop for and what sorts of things do you want to see updated as well as what new things do you think people would like to see?

Let us know in the comments area.


Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.9 with Hunter / Prey

Published on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

Version 2.9 of the award-winning massive-scale RTS, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation goes out this week.

This version is the biggest AI update since the original release.  It also has numerous visual improvements including higher resolution textures.

Let’s take a look…

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.9

This is one of the Hunter / Prey expansion turrets.  In v2.9 you can rapidly drop down Emergency Turrets.  They can now be upgraded into a Machine Gun Turret (pictured here) or a Shotgun turret.

You may also notice a general refresh on the terrain in this shot.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.9

This shot is mainly to just show off the updated terrain texture.

Same here:

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.9

Structures blend in more nicely and the terrain itself has a bit more punch.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.9

Here I have a bunch of the new Nova Towers and Minos Cannon towers.  They are very vulnerable to air but are great anti-turtle siege weaponry.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.9

Subtle but important new feature in v2.9: Hold position.   The previous command “Stop” did indeed stop.  But you still ended up with the unit AI occasionally wandering towards unwanted objectives.

Version 2.9 will be released on November 14 at 1pm EST.

Fallen Enchantress v2.51

Published on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Elemental Dev Journals

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is getting an update.

Changes include:

  • Unit movement engine optimizations
  • AI update to be more greedy about getting goodie huts
  • Early game technology costs reduced
  • Default unit movement increased from 2 to 3 tiles.
  • Sovereign default combat speed increased from 22 to 32
  • Sovereign default HP increased from 20 to 28.
  • Several bug fixes to late game instability

Release date: Now!

Screenshots (at 5K)






GalCiv Dev Journal: Thinking about starting conditions

Published on Saturday, October 26, 2019 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

The first impression of gameplay in a 4X strategy game tends to be what the opening choices are.  And this is something we have tried our best to optimize in GalCiv III.

In version 3.96, we are giving players the shipyard again by default (which we used to have back in 1.0).   The presence of the starting shipyard has everything to do with having meaningful starting decisions.

For example, here is v3.96 without the shipyard as an option now:


We added a new build-once project called Industrial Center (retribution) that is the equivalent of the Computer Core except for manufacturing.  Combine that with trade resources and (in Retribution) artifacts and you have some interesting options.

Then you go over to the shipyard and you have a 4 obvious choices:


Note that we no longer have any weapons at the start of the game (retribution). Your ships are unarmed.  So this allows us to clean up the first impression a little bit so that weaponizing ships makes an obvious difference to your shipyard choices.

Also, having the shipyard combined with the recent increase in starting funds means players can move out a bit faster than they could before.   This gives a little more room, especially for new players, to not get economically over their heads.

These changes, along with the visual update to the planets (you can see the visual update in the first screenshot) will be in v3.96.

Making Microsoft's Surface Pro work as a better tablet

Published on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

I love my Surface Pro.  It doesn't always love me.  This Summer, a firmware update caused the keyboard cover connector to not work anymore which forced me to use the Surface truly as a tablet.  It wasn't...a good experience.

While I wasn't a fan of Windows 8, it was a pretty decent touch OS.  Windows 10...not so much.  A big part of the reason Windows 10 isn't good for touch is that it doesn't use the screen edges well.

Windows 10, by default, has these touch-based shortcuts:

  1. Swipe from left: You get a very cluttered desktop / app manager (3 x 3)
  2. Swipe from bottom: nothing (no standard use in apps)
  3. Swipe from top: Nothing (will close apps if they're running)
  4. Swipe from right:  Notification Center

That's pretty weak.

Compare that with an iPad:

  1. Swipe from left: Brings up your gadgets / reserved for apps
  2. Swipe from bottom:  Return to home screen OR bring up a nice 3X2 list
  3. Swipe from top:  Notification Center
  4. Swipe from top right:  Quick settings
  5. Swipe from right: (reserved for apps)

The Surface Pro, like all touch devices, has an interesting, not well known feature: The touch sensitive area is bigger than the display area.  You could assign areas outside the display area to have functionality.


TouchTasks lets you define zones at the edge of your touch screen to do things.  Stardock even includes a few custom applets as examples but it's purpose is to let people decide what they want to do with it:

For example:

Here I have it set up so that if I tape in zone 4, it will bring up a big friendly quick launcher.  But I could just as easily have set it up so that it just launches say OneNote or define a custom hot key on Windows or bring up the Windows start menu or bring up recent documents or basically anything else you might want.

For my use, I have the Start menu to let me go through all the stuff I might need so I have begun to clean up my Surface Pro a bit:


For v1.0, we are mostly testing the waters in seeing how much interest there is by Windows users to make Windows 10 work better as a touch only device.    A lot of other accessibility options could be added in here such as Search or Cortana or a Widget panel.  

I suspect I'm not the only person who would like to see Windows 10 made into a better touch-based OS.  

You can download and try TouchTasks yourself for free.  Just remember to touch outside the display area! 


Cosmetic and functional planet improvements

Published on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Civilizations III

We're working on a wide range of things including one thing that has bugged me a long time: The way planets look.

Ugh.  These just look so bad.

Now improved to:

These will be part of an upcoming free update later this Fall.

We are also going to release a DLC with a bunch of new planet types (with really cool looking surfaces made from scratch to support the new system) that give worlds a little more character both visually and in terms of bonuses/penalties.


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