Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on September 26, 2016 By Draginol In Ashes Dev Journals

MS8_DESKTOP

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. 

Escalation

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.

Rambling

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


Comments (Page 2)
on Oct 01, 2016

It's not just the score either. 

We're seeing a general exodus of developers from the game industry right now.  It's not like anything I've seen in my career and it's heavily influenced by seeing people believe that their work isn't worth anything.

The same guy developing UI systems or Steam Workshop integration can make a lot more in other software industries.  It doesn't take a lot of people saying "This game is a rip off at $25.  It might be worth $5 but no more. I'll wait until I can get it on a Steam sale for $2."  

The market will adjust over time.   But we're in for some years of Unity game spam in the meantime.

on Oct 01, 2016

I literally haven't touched anything other than ashes rts wise in 5 years.   I think I played lots of sins but that was a while ago.  used to play forged alliance but I'm talking when it was run officially.  Before that the usual rts classics.   

there doesn't seem to be any rts games worth buying, maybe there is but it's hard to know it exsiste unless you see it on the steam home page.   the games you listed don't interest me if that's the current offering.  I brought pa, but never played it.  Not sure why tbh I think it was the carton style that was off putting or more likely just saw it in a steam sale. 

Ashes is the last rts hope as far as I'm concerned and today i played 1 ranked it turned into a game of basically Building a giant line of obitAl nullifies all the way across the map.  The units half went one way half went another and wouldnt move when i ordered them too.  ememy moved in a cut them to bits, most units just spinning not sure what to do.   I find i have to do most of my group movements un grouped then group at the last second for the battle benifits or things like that happen if you rely on the metas units path finding / group dynamic.  I rebuilt and enemy used nuke to kill my whole army even though it had a nulifier because you can launch the nuke on the edge of a nullifier and it reaches half way under the nulifiers radius.  I quit out and I'm going to wait till escalation like everyone else by the sounds of it.   This game is good on the smaller maps but it falls apart if you try and play bigger maps / end game match which is what the marketing blurb says the game is about.   I especially liked the group of units I had going from one point to the next capturing them but every point they missed some units yet still moved on to the next.  So when I looked at the top of the map expecting to see a nice line of blue it was grey grey grey grey blue.  

as others have said it's the game which does the talking with regard reviews.  But the reason people think escalation should have been with the base ashes is pretty obvious if you playing it, your still finishing ashes in my opinion.  

Obviously im grateful to you for making ashes,I brought the game at twice the full price and left a positive review.   but I don't see the point in just telling you that everything's great and fine when it's not The whole point of the forums is feedback.   And escalation can't come soon enough. 

on Oct 03, 2016

Frogboy

What you remember is that games were released and abandoned.  You also paid a lot more for them.  That was the retail model.

Yes, but we did ended up with a complete product. The "halfway done" products were quite rare.

Frogboy

Your example of a good deal is paying for a remaster of a 15 year old game.  That's a bit of an edge case imo.

So why not? It is fun, it is complete, it is what was advertised. 

Frogboy

Few people enjoy being called scammers or crooks or what have you.

Frogboy

In other words, developers aren't feeling the love from RTS players and are moving on to genres where they can make a fun game at a relatively modest budget and get praised.

I dont think anyone here called anyone crooks or scammers. There most certanly are people that like to troll devs and other people on internet, but come on, i wont certanly call myself a troll or something, just because im giving a feedback on a product i bought. 

You must know that if a player is trying to give you some sorf of a feedback (even if its not correctly put, we are gamers, not engeneers), they actually care for the product. 

Frogboy

A 2016 game with a $3 million budget is still going to have a hard time competing against a 2007 game with a $28 million budget.

Again, you see it from developers perspective, try to look at it from gamers point of view. Gamers do not actually care for game budget. Nor we actually understand how much it takes to create a game. We only see and rate the game itself. 

 

Frogboy

The Steam reviews routinely have people saying that Ashes should be $5 or some other absurd price.  

I do agree that these kind of people are making the rewiev system a troll fest tool. I never actually did understand why people tend to say that "x game is bad, but i would give it a shot if it was 10x times cheaper". If its bad, what should you want it for? If you want it - it is good or decent - then pay for it. 

I actually think that ashes is worth the price, but the dlcs are not. So i did bought a game and didnt actually bought a single dlc. Thats my way of saying that some content is not worth buying. As for escalation, i actually thought i would buy it on first sight, but these dlcs and the ammount of content they provide for their price, kinda forced me to take my time and see whats coming. I do think it is a reasonable position on buying products. 

I am one of those people, that actually likes to know what they are paying for, and i dont certanly like to blindly pay for something "just to support a developer". If the content that is being produced is worth paying for it, i am the first one that opens up my wallet. But come on, give me something worth of paying.

Richy_Young

as others have said it's the game which does the talking with regard reviews.  But the reason people think escalation should have been with the base ashes is pretty obvious if you playing it, your still finishing ashes in my opinion.  

Fully agree. 

 

To Brad:

I am not trying to troll ashes in any way, and i dont still get why you actually think that the main reason ashes are not that popular as lets say different games, are actually players. We did best we could to support you - bought the game, play the game, give feedback about the game. If you want only positive "comments" on forum and steam then say so. 

Just a simple question that ive been asking not long time ago, are there plans for ashes to come up with some kind of "pve" game mode, like starcrafts allied commanders? I actually think that RTS genre need to change quality vise. I do think that there are a lot of casual players that actually like to play some sort of allied commander game mode, then actually going for pvp game. Have you considered "evolving" rts further, keeping in mind to attract casual players instead of old school hardcore gamers? 

I also think that ashes could use some sort of "hero" system. When you could actually pick some sort of passive/active abilities based on a preset of techs. Leveling them up, unlocking new features, experimenting with "builds". It would be apropriate for post humans or substrate to augment their concionceness with more spec oriented knowledge. 

on Oct 03, 2016

Orachin

Just a simple question that ive been asking not long time ago, are there plans for ashes to come up with some kind of "pve" game mode, like starcrafts allied commanders? I actually think that RTS genre need to change quality vise. I do think that there are a lot of casual players that actually like to play some sort of allied commander game mode, then actually going for pvp game. 

2 player or more scenarios is certainly something people are asking for and would be a good thing for sure.

Orachin
Have you considered "evolving" rts further, keeping in mind to attract casual players instead of old school hardcore gamers?

 I am clad you used "" for the word evolving, because what people often mean in gaming circles when they suggest gearing something towards casual players is normally called devolving. No thanks! And I am pretty confident I am not alone in that view. 

Orachin
I also think that ashes could use some sort of "hero" system. When you could actually pick some sort of passive/active abilities based on a preset of techs. Leveling them up, unlocking new features, experimenting with "builds". It would be apropriate for post humans or substrate to augment their concionceness with more spec oriented knowledge. 

Upgradable T3s seems to fill much of this already, and there are lots of games which have this sort of thing if someone must have heroes. One reason I like this game is because it doesn't have heroes. T3s will be getting more levels and upgrades at some point and should the tech tree be fleshed out a bit then I think that should be sufficient for people who must have a bit of this sort of thing. 

on Oct 03, 2016

Again, you see it from developers perspective, try to look at it from gamers point of view. Gamers do not actually care for game budget. Nor we actually understand how much it takes to create a game. We only see and rate the game itself.

This is the crux.

Like I said, why shouldn't gamers feel entitled? A new game today is now competing against every game ever made.  And for awhile, it is a paradise for gamers.  But in the long-term, you won't be seeing new RTS games via new IP because the market is so tough.

That is, it's a two-way street.  Gamers can choose to spend their dollars and passion on say Supreme Commander: FA but that won't result in a new game.  

Stardock can choose to invest in other genres where $3 million will result in greater profits and less abuse. 

I think people will like what we're doing with Escalation.  But it'll also a market test of whether the RTS market is worth continuing to invest in.  After Escalation, new dev will have to be paid for via sales.  Right now, dev on Escalation is coming from the money that Object Desktop makes. 

on Oct 04, 2016

catch 22, you have to get the game to the point when it's consistently getting postive reviews.  and no one can do that other than stardock. 

I have no problem buying games and neither does any other gamer I'm sure, my biggest problem is actually playing the game after I have brought it.   any game can get sales, but not any game can retsin a player base, very few can actually grow that player base. 

You should focus less on sales numbers and reviews and more on concurrent online users and if they arnt there, ask why they aren't there.   the bigger the player base the more it attracts new players because it must be good if it can hold players nowadays. 

The ammount of games I've brought and played less than 10hrs is shocking.  It's really not a big deal getting sales.  It's so not the measure of a games success. 

on Oct 04, 2016

I like how knucklecracker.com handles it. They used a demo for their new game particle fleet so people know what they will get. They also have very loyal followers.

Ofcourse, the game itself is much simpler, but it shows you can use simpler graphics and still have a good strategic game.

While a game like Supcom is nice, I would not care if it had the looks of total annihilation as long as it has the game mechanics. Use a demo to prepare people for the graphics and do not use a low price for the first year.

on Oct 06, 2016

I think the issue RTS games are having, which Frogboy has alluded to, is that they're really hard to evolve.  A well balanced RTS can be played for a long time which isn't true for most other game types.  And 4x games have been able to expand the scope of the product.  

Starcraft is certainly one big exception, although it's riding off success in the RTS golden age and delivers both a strong campaign/story and strong multiplayer (in part thanks to a large budget).

Ashes is a great game, as I've said elsewhere probably the best strategy game I ever played.  It has a chance to really turn into something if players are willing to give it a chance.  I really hope that happens.  

on Oct 07, 2016

Frogboy

What can you do?

Here are things the community can do that makes a difference to developers (not just RTS games but any game):

  1. Review the game on Steam
  2. Support multiplayer
  3. Support modding, work together on that (the mod scene for SupCom was due to fans making tools that let people manage mods)
  4. Participate on game wikis related to the game you like
  5. Participate on social media in areas related to the game you like (RTS in Ashes case)
  6. Participate on forums, be a good ambassador

What good is it to review on Steam, if the score ONLY counts if you bought it directly from the steam store?  That is the first score anyone sees.

Support multiplayer?  For lots of people, that just isn't possible or wanted.  There are far too many idiots ruining games just so they can ruin a game.  This just doesn't happen when you play skirmish or campaign games.  Then you got the hardcore player vs a person who is only a casual gamer, it isn't fun at all to be beaten in under 10 mins.  Yeah, ranking is supposed to prevent this kind of thing, but then the problem turns into, you play against the same people over and over again, and again, it just isn't fun.

Modding is relegated to a few now, I have seen no tutorials, or anything that even resembles a how-to guide, and what are the engine's limitations, and all that good stuff.

Game wikis for a RTS, I have never really seen a need for this, once the tech tree is known, what more info do people want?

Social media... ugh, more idiots.

Forums... well, this forum software is very annoying to use,  I rather see some phpBB3 be used.  This editor is a PITA.  That said, I haven't seen in this forum anyone being mean to any new user, most are pretty helpful.

There are still really strong pockets of RTS fans, and, since previous RTS games set the bar pretty high, most people had very high expectations that AoTS would be better than what was previously done, and it fell short of that goal for a variety of reasons.  What I do know is that MP isn't in the picture for the vast majority of the audience, unless you are a Blizzard fan.

That isn't to say that AoTS doesn't have a place, and the expansion still might fix things that lots of people felt was wrong with AoTS, so, the expansion might indeed get a higher score than the original.

on Oct 07, 2016

That just seems like a whole lot of negativity.  Criticism/counter-point is certainly fair but it just seems you're just complaining about literally everything. I mean you little say "social media... ugh more idiots". 

on Oct 08, 2016

xyphonic

That just seems like a whole lot of negativity.  Criticism/counter-point is certainly fair but it just seems you're just complaining about literally everything. I mean you little say "social media... ugh more idiots". 

But he is right to a point.

MP structure in small communities is not casual friendly, and dieing to a pro player without knowing your mistakes isnt in any way fun. So people play SP more. This is where ashes currently shine - AI is by far most intelegent ive seen in years for a RTS, and can give you a punch if you are not carefull enough.

BadVoltage

Game wikis for a RTS, I have never really seen a need for this, once the tech tree is known, what more info do people want?

Ive seen ashes wiki, it is outdated and contains no usefull info. We need guides, lots of them to teach new players the basics. As for advanced tactics or strategies they can find out themselves.

BadVoltage

Social media... ugh, more idiots.

I agree.

@xyphonic Surely there is a small percent of people that actually have a very argumented opinion, but 95% of social media is just trash. For example why would i listen to a 19 year reviewer that has no experience of 90% RTS games? If you want to see how social media works, read some steam comments.

 

on Oct 08, 2016

But how could you really be certain the other guy is a 19 year old. They may very well be middle age adults. and 90% is way too high a bar. I dont play many different RTS but the amount of time I have spend playing RTS is enormous.

 

A guide is a good idea but people have to be bothered reading them. Most people would just jump straight into a game and learn for themselves and if they cant figure they just quit. I wish someone could make a list of all the dreadnought upgrades tree, The wiki doesnt list it.

on Oct 08, 2016

zaftgun

A guide is a good idea but people have to be bothered reading them. Most people would just jump straight into a game and learn for themselves and if they cant figure they just quit. I wish someone could make a list of all the dreadnought upgrades tree, The wiki doesnt list it.

Check out the "Dreadnoughts Are Us" guide in the game's Guides section of Community Hub. It has all the Dread upgrades listed in there.

There is also an official modding guide, though I realise it doesn't yet cover everything people want:

http://www.moddb.com/games/ashes-of-the-singularity/tutorials/ashes-of-the-singularity-modding-guide

on Oct 08, 2016

BadVoltage

What I do know is that MP isn't in the picture for the vast majority of the audience, unless you are a Blizzard fan.

 

Blizzard +1.

 

AoTS +2..

 

.... maybe even +10.

on Oct 08, 2016

Orachin


Quoting xyphonic,

That just seems like a whole lot of negativity.  Criticism/counter-point is certainly fair but it just seems you're just complaining about literally everything. I mean you little say "social media... ugh more idiots". 



But he is right to a point.

MP structure in small communities is not casual friendly, and dieing to a pro player without knowing your mistakes isnt in any way fun. So people play SP more. This is where ashes currently shine - AI is by far most intelegent ive seen in years for a RTS, and can give you a punch if you are not carefull enough.

 

I have no disagreement that this game needs more instructions on how to play MP competitively.  Guides are a great way to start, but even having tutorials or videos easily accessible in game would be wonderful explaining simple things like a 2 cap opening.  Now that I've figured this game out I explain this basic stuff to newer players I play against.  At the same time, all you have to do is watch a 5 minute video on Youtube of Ashes (which I did) to figure this stuff out.

I also think it was a mistake to include a campaign without being properly fleshed out. I only got into MP because I was bored of the campaign/scenarios but wanted to play the game more.  One of the wonderful thing about MP is that it really fleshes out the strategy of Ashes.  You have to be much smarter than in SP.  But it's a big jump.  And I think continuing to flesh out and grow SP is a must because that's what most gamers want.  But again, you can also make that transition to MP easier. 

Those are suggestions.  But non-stop complaining is useless.  That poster literally dumped on every suggestion without a positive thing to say.  There are valid criticisms, but if they're not constructive they're not useful.