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


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

Comments (Page 3)
on Oct 08, 2016

I've been playing starcraft 2 since just before release and I have to say the game isnt anywhere near as fun to play as this game.

Its mainly just build cycles of units and buildings which take pretty much all your time. If you have attention to spare it'll then be used to micro. Units move across the map too fast so its just one big ball of units wondering around. This game makes much better gameplay.

on Oct 08, 2016


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.  

When they said "Here are things the community can do that makes a difference to developers (not just RTS games but any game):", I wasn't complaining, I was merely pointing out what was wrong with those suggestions that were listed.

They never asked for suggestions on how to improve things, and I said, the expansion could be better, we just don't know yet.

Hindsight is 20/20, yes, they admitted they made mistakes about the game, and there isn't anything that we can do to fix that now, that shipped has sailed, yes, there was patches that fixed some of the issues, but, it still turned off lots of people, and it is extremely difficult trying to get them back without offering some bonus things.

If you want suggestions then...

  • The game needs more tutorials/scenarios to cover everything about the game, most people don't look externally at wiki pages or anything else.
  • In game help is far more effective than anything available externally (which would be a toggle, that could be turned on/off)
  • More unit types, more defensive & offensive hardpoints, lots of people miss base building!
  • Different terrain types
  • Weather effects (that actually play a role in the game, like your visibility will be down in a heavy snow storm)
  • More maps (and a easier way to make them)
  • Ability to make new units (I suppose this would be for modding)
  • A SDK & docs to let modders fully explore what is possible

For the MP side of things, I can only think of one sure fire thing that will get people to play it, but, obviously won't be liked by the devs.  That is, make a game that is free to play for MP, like some weekend a month.  That will open up the flood gates, but, that would also let in more idiots to mess with games.

Lots of my friends also want to do MP games, but we want LAN, not via external servers.  This is why lots of older games are still being played as well, they offer LAN support.  We have no use for ranks, ladders, tournaments or anything else.



on Oct 09, 2016

Here is a suggestion that i think may help. Devs can actually make a separate queue (or a game mode) for lets say 2 v 2 or 2 v 1 (players vs AI). That way more experienced players could help less experienced to learn to play the game. Custom games are ok, but a lot of players are not socialised enough to go for lobby or/and are afraid to ruin peoples games cause they lack experience.