Brad Wardell's Blog

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.


GalCiv Dev Journal: October 2019

Published on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

We're putting the finishing touches on GalCiv III v3.95 which includes both balance changes and new game options and some quality of life updates.

Originally we were going to go right from v3.6 to v4.0 but we've broken the tasks down into smaller chunks, hence v3.7, v3.8, v3.9, v3.91 and now v3.95

But we've also been working on v4.0 which has a heavy modding emphasis. Now that the major expansions to III are over (we will still be releasing DLCs, but all new FEATURE changes will happen in the base game) we are focusing more on content management, quality of life and helping make sure GalCiv III is the best GalCiv game we've ever done.

So how do we imagine enhanced mod support looking?

Here's what we have in mind:

From the main menu you click on Mods.  This takes you to the Mod Manager.

It has 3 pages:

  1. Installed
  2. Available
  3. Create

GalCiv IV-25

The Installed mods simply let you enable and disable mods.

When you click on Available it takes you to a page that has a bunch of categories of mods.  These are just glorified Steam tags.

GalCiv IV-26

The idea here is that you can press a button and it will launch the Steam workshop browser with tags set up.  Just makes it a bit easier for players to go directly to the types of mods they're looking for.

The last page is Create.

Now, this isn't a tool.  Modders will still have to actually to the mod like they do today.  The difference is adding support for what expansions the mod requires to work and what tags your mod requires.

GalCiv IV-27

Based on these settings, it'll create a folder in the documents\my games\gc3crusade\mods\ directory with the proper directory structure worked out.

The directory structure in which GalCiv is setup is a bit complicated.  That was because we didn't want to change the gameplay experience for everyone when an expansion came out.  Only those who voluntarily bought the expansion would have the changed game play and those who didn't want that gameplay changed could effectively opt-out.   This decision has a lot of advantages and disadvantages but one disadvantage is that makes modding much more error prone.

For example, for the Retribution expansion we have our various data files in a directory like this:


If you have Retribution installed, then it uses the files in this directory instead of the files in say


With mods, we will need to know which files you plan to "replace" which means knowing which version of the game you want your mod to support (i.e. Retribution vs. Intrigue).  So for instance, let's say you want to replace ImprovementDefs.xml.  We need to know WHICH one you want to replace.    But let's say you want to create NEW planetary improvements.  We still need to know which set of improvements your planetary improvements are going to essentially append to.

For those of you who are already experienced at modding GalCiv, let us know what you think along with any improvements to how we are looking to do it that might make it more robust.

Some Sneak Previews for end of the year

Published on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 By Brad Wardell In OS Customization

Lots of exciting things happening this year.  

Stardock is actively hiring software developers to begin revamping all of Object Desktop.  You will begin to see the changes starting in mid November as new and old things alike start being added.

A few things on our plate include:

  1. Updating SoundPackager.  The sounds in Windows 10 are a bit annoying.  Stardock has a lot of audio talent here that we plan to use to revamp the sound packages that it includes as well as put dev resources into updating it.
  2. Updating Keyboard LaunchPad.  This is mostly about updating the UX and feature set to support modern apps as well as changing the defaults short-cuts.  Sorry WinAmp fans!
  3. DeskScapes 10.1.  We are going to be integrating in-app Dream creation (not just DreamMaker but a full on mini app for creating really cool effects and dreams!).
  4. NEW APP.  I can't talk about this yet but it should show up within the next month or so.  It's the biggest new customization app we've put out in years.

And that's just by end of this year!

Stay tuned!


Galactic Civilizations III v3.95 Change Log (Released 10/10/2019)

Published on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Civilizations III


We are pleased to let you know about the exciting changes in v3.95 of Galactic Civilizations III.

This is a big one so stand back!  


  • New game option: On Surrender, transfer all planets.  Defaults to OFF
  • New game option: No FOW in your territory. Defaults to ON
  • "Ascension Victory" no longers requires you to control a majority of the crystals.  
  • Common and Abundant asteroid frequency increased.
  • When a planet gets colonized or a shipyard gets made and it sees if there is a shipyard nearby that would be in the green zone (no penalty), planet automatically becomes a sponsor.
  • Eliminated the map size limitations on map sizes as long as you have at least 8GB of memory.
  • "Nanite Transmitter" now has limited uses.
  • "Nano Fabricator" now gives 100 manufacturing overflow.
  • "Nano Fabricator" now gives a +10% Max Manufacturing bonus to the planet.
  • Dodge value on high-end thrusters reduced by 3%.
  • Tactical battle maximum final dodge increased from 10% to 20% (i.e. a ship always has a 20% chance to hit you).
  • Base relationship penalty for approaching ascension is -2 instead of -1
  • Ascension close to victory threshold lowered from 66% to 50% as there tends to be a feedback loop on accumulating points.
  • Space Rockets moved from default to Militaration tech
  • Retribution: Civilization capital max population increased from 8 to 10
  • Race Trait changes
    • Base Game: 
      • Reduced the effect of the "Popular" race trait
    • Crusade and up
      • Research techs for Drengin no longer have maint cost.
    • All:
      • Port of call is one per player instead of one per planet to align with Retribution balance
      • Productive1 trait now provides 20% instead of 10% social production boost
      • Production2 trait now provides 10% instead of 5%
      • Clever1 now provides 15% research boost instead of 10%
      • Influential1 trait now does 40% influence boost instead of 15%
      • Influential2 trait now does 15% influence boost instead of 10%
      • Economical1 now provides 15% gross income boost instead of 10%
      • Handy1 now reduces Colony Maintenace by 50% instead of 20%
      • Handy2 now reduces Colony Maintenace by 30% instead of 15%
      • Popular1 tourism per planet boost reduced from 2% to 0.4% (it's still pretty huge)
      • Popular2 tourism boost reduced from 1% to 0.2%
      • Traders1 trade boost increased from 20% to 40%
      • Traders2 trade boost increased from 10% to 15%
      • Brutal1 increases soldiering from 20% to 50% now
      • Brutal2 increases soldiering from 10% to 30%
      • Courageous1 trait now boosts resistance from 20% to 50%
      • Courageous2 trait boosted from 10% to 30%
      • SharpEyed1 increases ship accuracy from 20% to 30%
      • Sharpeyed2 increases ship accuracy from 10% to 20%
      • Agile1 increases jamming (dodge) from 20% to 30%
      • Agile2 increases jamming (doge) from 10% to 20%
      • Observant1 increases sensors from 25% to 50% 
      • Observant2 increases sensor range from 15% to 30%


  • Moved the "planet build queue" over to give the improvement list more room.
  • Moved "Word on the Street" window to the Govern screen.     
  • Tourism on a planet displays decimals if it falls below 1%.
  • The game now provides feedback when you can't select a tech because of an "Age" restriction


  • Fixed a rare bug that prevented planets and ships from spawning in the campaigns
  • Fix typos.  Hat tip our discord fans for their help
  • Ambient music no longer plays during the victory movie.


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