Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on October 11, 2016 By Draginol In Ashes Dev Journals

 

ESCALATE ON NOVEMBER 3

On November 3, Ashes of the Singularity gets its first expansion pack: Escalation.  It’s a stand-alone expansion which means that if you don’t already have Ashes of the Singularity, you can just buy Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and get everything that’s in the base game too.

image

 

TOTAL ANNIHILATION vs. SUPREME COMMANDER

There are a lot of reasons we decided to separate the base game from Escalation.  Much of this came from how the game developed during the beta period.  For those of you who weren’t part of the early access program, we had very heated debates regarding the direction the game should go.[[..]] 

To oversimplify things, there were two camps: The Total Annihilation camp and the Supreme Commander camp.  Now, you might think these camps would be the same but they’re not.  As good as Total Annihilation is, it is a lot simpler than Supreme Commander.  There’s no strategic zoom, there are no upgradeable defenses and it has limited progression as part of its strategy.  

I was part of the Total Annihilation camp and Ashes of the Singularity 1.0 reflects this.  We wanted Ashes to be a more approachable game than Supreme Commander was and felt that features such as Strategic Zoom and complex economic interactions would be a turn-off the wider RTS community. 

 

image

Strategic Zoom in Escalation (full zoom out). Courtesy of PC Gamer

 

The problem with that approach is that it results in a game that doesn’t feel featured enough to justify a $39.99 price tag in 2016.  While Ashes shipped with a lot more content than Sins of a Solar Empire did back in 2008, the market has vastly changed since then.  In 2008, Sins was only competing against the other 37 SCUs on retail shelves at Walmart.  In 2016, Ashes is competing against every RTS that has ever been released.  If the only obvious innovation in Ashes is that it can handle thousands of units easily that’s just not sufficient in a full priced PC game now when a player can choose from all the RTS’s of all time.

So how do we adapt to that?

The answer, we had to rethink the game’s design. It has to evolve to be obviously different than anything that has come before.  It has to find its own niche.

CONSIDERING THE OPTIONS

Now, one path we considered was making Escalation a DLC for Ashes of the Singularity.  The problem with that idea is that a year from now, Escalation and the base are going to evolve in very different directions.  We are going to continue to develop and enhance the base game for years to come with our original vision in mind: A modern Total Annihilation style game.  The base game will be priced to address that.

Escalation, by contrast, will evolve to become substantially more sophisticated.  We are looking at adding more resources to the game, a tech tree, resource refinement.  This will allow for a lot more strategies and a lot more variance based on map and resource placement.

Now, you reading this may look at these features and think “yay!” but I can assure you, there are plenty of players who will find greater base building, more resources and a tech tree to be overwhelming.  But the business reality is that when a new RTS is competing against every RTS that has ever been made, you either have to price your game to compete with them or you have to develop something that has never been done before.

 

image

Volcanic Worlds in Escalation. Courtesy of Gameranx

 

 

SUPPORTING FOUNDERS, EARLY ADOPTERS

Now, all this might sound great unless you’re an early adopter.  A lot of people bought the original game for $49.99.  It’s pretty crappy for those people to then have to pay $20 (a total of $69.99) while newcomers get it for $39.99.  So how do we support them?

In the old days, all our games came with activation. A user would enter their email address and enter our database.  Some users would post angrily about this and we would explain to them that by associating their game with an account, we could offer more discounts.  Ultimately, we eliminated the activation on our newer games so the problem is, unless you bought it from us, we don’t know when you bought the game or how much you paid. 

But we’re not totally out of luck, we do know these things:

  1. We know who was a Lifetime Founder (they already get all this automatically)
  2. We know who was a standard Founder
  3. We know who was part of the Early Access program
  4. We may know those who bought the game shortly after release

That means we can give those 4 groups the first several new DLC for Escalation for free.  So we will.

 

ESCALATION vs. BASE

  BASE ESCALATION NOTES
Episode I x    
Post-Human Coalition x    
Substrate x    
Gen 1 Units x    
Gen 1 Defenses x    
Temperate environment x    
Desert environment x    
Arctic environment x    
Single Player Sandbox x    
Custom Multiplayer x    
Ranked Multiplayer x    
Single Player Scenarios x    
Map Editor x    
Gen 1A Units x   Added in 1.2
Observer Mode x   Added in 1.3
Scenario Editor Fall 2016 Fall 2016 Planned for Version 1.5
Multiplayer replays Fall 2016 Fall 2016 Planned for Version 1.5
Multiplayer Scenarios Future Future  
Gen 1B Units Future x Planned for Version 1.5 of base game
Episode II   x  
Gen 2 Units   x  
Gen 2 Defenses   x  
Volcanic environment   x  
Crystaline environment   x  
Strategic Zoom   x  
96KM maps   x  
Multi-tier terrain   x  
Additional Resources   Future  
Gen 2A Units   Future  
Gen 2B Units   Future  
Gen 2C Units   Future These units wouldn't hover
Gen 2D Units   Future These units would be legged
Tech Tree   Future  
Naval   Future (DLC)  
Third Race   Future (DLC)  
Fourth Race   Future (DLC)  

 

Let us know what you think!

 

Cheers!


Comments
on Oct 11, 2016

Great idea to be honest. 

As far as i can see, you want ashes to be like "simplified" versions of escalation. Thats perfectly fine with me. 

That table is kinda in need of formating, cant see the 3 column (next one after the escalation column).

So if I bought a game prior (half year before) to its release am i considered a early adopter?


Escalation, by contrast, will evolve to become substantially more sophisticated.  We are looking at adding more resources to the game, a tech tree, resource refinement.  This will allow for a lot more strategies and a lot more variance based on map and resource placement.

Tell me that im dreaming... Better yet dont... thats a dream i want to stay in 

on Oct 11, 2016

So is this going to be akin Act of Aggression, which nowadays is playable in 2 versions - original and reboot? If yes, are u sure this is a good idea? What if i am hypothetically in the TA camp, so not so high on strategic zoom and more complex economy, but i would looove those additional units, which come with Escalation, to have in my base game?

BTW, to me Ashes does not feel like having more content on release than Sins had in 2008. Sins felt far more nuanced from the beginning.

on Oct 11, 2016

Hey, more units, more defenses, more gameplay and more races down the road? Won't get any whining from this guy.

on Oct 11, 2016

Ashes isn't mod friendly, has an over-simplified research system, doesn't have any depth to unit balance, has no sea units, no transport units, no non-hover land units, no manual ability control.

 

TA was an immensely deeper game, with naval, transport units, actual use for low tier units beyond consuming extra metal.  There is zero comparison between Sins and Ashes, Sins actually has research trees, varied weapon and armor types, mitigating shields, an ability system so complex you can make 300 file long random event chains.  Even Sins 1.0 was far superior to Ashes.

 

I'm sorry, but Ashes is an amazing engine and a mediocre game, it's by far the worst RTS I own when it comes to the usefulness of low tier units, they'd disappear if you added a resource exchange method.

 

I played Sins for hundreds of hours, I modded Sins for thousands of hours.  If Ashes doesn't improve massively, I'll never reach triple digits on play time.

on Oct 11, 2016

psychoak

Ashes isn't mod friendly, has an over-simplified research system, doesn't have any depth to unit balance, has no sea units, no transport units, no non-hover land units, no manual ability control.

 

TA was an immensely deeper game, with naval, transport units, actual use for low tier units beyond consuming extra metal.  There is zero comparison between Sins and Ashes, Sins actually has research trees, varied weapon and armor types, mitigating shields, an ability system so complex you can make 300 file long random event chains.  Even Sins 1.0 was far superior to Ashes.

 

I'm sorry, but Ashes is an amazing engine and a mediocre game, it's by far the worst RTS I own when it comes to the usefulness of low tier units, they'd disappear if you added a resource exchange method.

 

I played Sins for hundreds of hours, I modded Sins for thousands of hours.  If Ashes doesn't improve massively, I'll never reach triple digits on play time.

TA had no manual unit control and the locomotio of a unit is a cosmetic thing. The units had no shields, no armor concept, etc.

Just because you prefer game X over game Y doesn't change objective truths.  One could just as easily argue that Ashes, in having quanta and orbital abilities is thus a "Deeper" game than TA.

TA is my favorite game and I liked it because it was a relatively straight forward game to play that still had a lot of depth.

Re Sins, I'm not sure what your point even is here.  Sins is a much deeper game than Ashes. But it had a lot less content at 1.0.  I would agree that Sins 1.0 was a far more successful game because we found our niche immediately.  Ashes 1.0, by contrast, played it too safe: It's a relatively simple game in a market with lots of games that are relatively simple.

Going forward, Ashes (base game) will need to evolve itself so that it is a fun, inexpensive, but modern RTS while Escalation will evolve to be a much deeper but niche full priced title.

Incidentally, Ashes has varied weapons and armor types, mitigating shields and supports very complex abilities as well.   I prefer Ashes 1.0 to Sins 1.0 but Sins was/is a more successful release.

on Oct 11, 2016

Commanders did have manual control abilities in the original TA(D-Gun and cloaking?), and the locomotion of a unit is not a cosmetic thing when it creates the dynamic balance between weak, but fast units, and powerful, but slow moving weapons fire.  It was also released in the 90's for computers with a tiny fraction of our modern processing power and was by necessity simplistic by modern standards.

 

The only dynamic between fast and slow units in Ashes is how long they take to travel.  It has zero bearing on whether they will instantly die, often before they engage in combat.  Combat is largely static, with the control group system negating even what little mobility they have and locking them down in formation.  As the game progresses, even T2 units become so much chaff, as orbitals and artillery blow them away en mass.

 

While the Quanta abilities are a nice addition, the system is over-simplified.  TA has tactical missile launchers, defenses to counter them, etcetera.  Quanta has a jammer structure which completely prevents the use of anything in it's radius, a binary can/can't state of existence that doesn't allow for any counter but conventional firepower.

 

Sins 1.0 released with three factions as well as pirates, abilities for I believe each of the 10 frigates in a faction, ignoring civilian frigates and fighters, in depth research trees for civilian and military, which unlocked ships, structures and abilities, as well as doing stat upgrades, random planet bonuses, and 5 leveling capital ships each with 4 level restricted improving abilities to select from.  Ashes, currently, has two factions, no random goodies of any kind in maps to discover, and 16 units per faction total, including the engineer.  I'm not seeing more content now, let alone at release.

 

Incidentally, Ashes has varied weapons and armor types, mitigating shields and supports very complex abilities as well.   I prefer Ashes 1.0 to Sins 1.0 but Sins was/is a more successful release.

 

Then how about a modding walkthrough that isn't "how to make a map" so people who are interested in turning it into a better game themselves, can see such magically non-obvious in the base game features that no one is aware of and has no idea how to play with.  Seriously, we were told it was going to be this mod friendly paradise, and between looking through the files and what little information has come out, I haven't seen it and it doesn't look like anyone else has or someone would at least be discussing making SupCom3 with it.

 

I actually like the game where it is.  It's really not bad, it's just not good, small maps are relatively fun.  It's not improving though, which is what really distresses me.  Bigger maps don't help when the game design already doesn't scale with the engine as it is now.  It just doesn't have any serious depth to what you can do.  You can spam generators to bludgeon armies to death with orbitals, and you can send your slow moving dreads around with their soon to be dead escorts to bludgeon defenses to death until they get smacked with an orbital strike and killed by bombers when their air defense is all dead.  The end game on a big map is... bluh?  If you're fixing this in escalation, then we might be going somewhere.  Otherwise it's just a really pretty, really boring slugfest.

on Oct 11, 2016

Frogboy


Quoting psychoak,

Ashes isn't mod friendly, has an over-simplified research system, doesn't have any depth to unit balance, has no sea units, no transport units, no non-hover land units, no manual ability control.

 

TA was an immensely deeper game, with naval, transport units, actual use for low tier units beyond consuming extra metal.  There is zero comparison between Sins and Ashes, Sins actually has research trees, varied weapon and armor types, mitigating shields, an ability system so complex you can make 300 file long random event chains.  Even Sins 1.0 was far superior to Ashes.

 

I'm sorry, but Ashes is an amazing engine and a mediocre game, it's by far the worst RTS I own when it comes to the usefulness of low tier units, they'd disappear if you added a resource exchange method.

 

I played Sins for hundreds of hours, I modded Sins for thousands of hours.  If Ashes doesn't improve massively, I'll never reach triple digits on play time.



TA had no manual unit control and the locomotio of a unit is a cosmetic thing. The units had no shields, no armor concept, etc.

Just because you prefer game X over game Y doesn't change objective truths.  One could just as easily argue that Ashes, in having quanta and orbital abilities is thus a "Deeper" game than TA.

TA is my favorite game and I liked it because it was a relatively straight forward game to play that still had a lot of depth.

Re Sins, I'm not sure what your point even is here.  Sins is a much deeper game than Ashes. But it had a lot less content at 1.0.  I would agree that Sins 1.0 was a far more successful game because we found our niche immediately.  Ashes 1.0, by contrast, played it too safe: It's a relatively simple game in a market with lots of games that are relatively simple.

Going forward, Ashes (base game) will need to evolve itself so that it is a fun, inexpensive, but modern RTS while Escalation will evolve to be a much deeper but niche full priced title.

Incidentally, Ashes has varied weapons and armor types, mitigating shields and supports very complex abilities as well.   I prefer Ashes 1.0 to Sins 1.0 but Sins was/is a more successful release.

 

I presume that would be his point.

Seriously, dont you think that producing Ashes in its current form was sort of weird decision? You sold several hundreds of thousands of Sins copies, so it was fairly successful game, right? Now you had shiny new engine and were about to produce a new RTS, which for whatever reason was not going to be Sins 2 (probably Ironclad related decision, but whatever).... you could still have made a game equally deep as Sins, pretty much its clone, just set in different setting of your choosing, be it the sci-fi ground one ala Ashes, medieval with castles instead of planets, WW2, fantasy, whatever you wish...  that niche target audience, who adored Sins, would be pretty sure bet to give it a try, cause you know, there is not really another recent game like Sins out there...

yet you decided to play it safe and create simple game of Ashes - in situation, where as you say by yourself there is already a market with similar games (last year Act of Aggression, Grey Goo, this year 8-bit armies, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak...). So - why?

on Oct 11, 2016

psychoak

Seriously, we were told it was going to be this mod friendly paradise, and between looking through the files and what little information has come out, I haven't seen it and it doesn't look like anyone else has...

Yeah, I've been kind of surprised by how little has been done with modding considering how much fanfare it seemed to be getting in the run-up to release.  When I finally decided to stop waiting on a fix for the end-game nuke problem that you highlighted, I was surprised that I had to figure out how to mod them out myself because nobody had even gotten 'that' far (incidentally, large games are, in my opinion, a little more satisfying without them though not having them really brings the army pathing issues and limited unit diversity into focus).  And even then, apparently, I can't use these mods in a co-op game with friends that I might want to try playing this game with so... that's unfortunate.

Anyway, I don't want to dogpile much further than that (though once again, I agree with roughly everything in that post) - I'm sure Stardock is, at least, aware of some of the biggest complaints at this point.  I think the upcoming mobile nullifiers are missing the mark a bit as far as fixing the nuke issue goes but hopefully, the rest of the Escalation package fills in some of the gaps.

on Oct 12, 2016

In general, I like the idea of adding complexity, sophistication, and more strategy. 

However, I have some misgivings about this post and what it might imply. 

 

1) Calling your hot new product "inexpensive but modern" (translate as "cheap but reasonably functional") is not a terrific idea when you are expecting people to invest in a new version, less than a year after the original was released. This description of the game would hardly be a resounding endorsement if it was included in a game review. Almost sounds like you are rubbishing your own title, which was supposed to be the hottest new thing in RTS. I can only speak for myself, but I wasn't happy to read this sentiment. As someone who invested in the game with some high hopes, it sort of pissed me off. Not sure where you were going with that statement, or what you intended to say. My interpretation is probably NOT what you intended.

 

2) I'd be curious to know what is in store in terms of splitting of development resources. i saw somewhere that Ashes can support 3 full time devs at this point (based on current sales figures). So what happens after you split the titles? How many people will be devoted to each?

 

3) I see very little slated for the future of the base ashes game. Just two items for base game. What else is on the base game horizon? You seem to indicate that the base of ashes will be developed "for years to come." And it will go in a different direction than escalation? But there is no evidence of that in your chart? Will Ashes actually go in it's own direction, or will it simply be refined and stabilized as a basic product in its current form (more or less)?

 

4) If pretty much everything in the base is also in escalation, then why would someone actually want to play the base? Unless they jsut want a cheap demo (which might not be the ideal thing for a prospective new player to see? Wouldn't you rather them se the best-in-class version?) What am I missing?

 

5) Will escalation still be an RTS? Will it stay an RTS?

 

6) Will escalation have a ladder? Will it keep its ladder? I want to know this as someone who pre-ordered. Only seems fair to let players know intentions.  

 

7) I am happy to see no "diplomacy" in this list. It was mentioned somewhere else. That seemed like a mistake. 

 

8) I am disappointed to see no mention of improved UI (ex. troop selection controls). 

 

9) I am also disappointed to see no mention of other ideas that have received resounding endorsements on the forums (ex. weather). It doesn't seem like weather would take too much effort to implement in contrast to some other planned features. And weather would definitely be something that would help to make the game unique. Perhaps Ashes should be looking for more low-hanging fruit like this? 

 

10) Did this post really tell us anything new? We already knew Escalation would be a separate game. And the relevant feature lists have been posted for quite a while on Steam. Is there really new information here? (Aside from the fact some some players would receive DLC??? Was this just thinly veiled acknowledgement of slightly overpriced original product???)  What else was new in this post? What am I missing?

 

PS. I took a look at the new video. Looking good visually.

 

I've frankly never played supreme commander, and don't know why they are making such a big deal out of strategic zoom. Looks OK in video. But not sure I see how it really matters yet. I mean, if this is a primary justification for splitting the games (seems like it), then is it really a key part of the game? I'll be sad and aggravated if the strategic zoom thing ends up being much ado about nothing.

 

 

on Oct 12, 2016

In Supreme Commander, strategic zoom was navigation and a full screen minimap rolled into one, same with Sins of a Solar Empire.  Both are excellent games well beyond their peers, the zoom feature just being one of the things where they were ahead of their time.

 

It sounds like you should really pick up at least Forged Alliance, sounds like you'd enjoy it.

on Oct 13, 2016

Followup to previous post...

 

In fairness, it does appear that some of my issues (#8 and #9, and to some degree #3) were addressed by Draginol in this thread:

http://steamcommunity.com/app/228880/discussions/1/350544272219647451/

 

 

on Oct 13, 2016

As good as Total Annihilation is, it is a lot simpler than Supreme Commander. There’s no strategic zoom, there are no upgradeable defenses and it has limited progression as part of its strategy.

Upgradable defenses... If I recall correctly, the only upgradable defenses in supcom were shield generators (for 2 of the 3 vanilla races, I can't recall if seraphim shields were upgradable). And frankly, upgrades don't neccessarily make a game complex. I would argur that between a game with 3 different defenses and a game with one defense which has 5 squential upgrades (i.e. maintaining the general characteristic), the latter one is less complex.

I wouldn't say supcom ahd unlimited progression, but the limit was pretty damn high, which was amazing to me. And made it a lot less simple, you are right in that.

What I actually came here to post about: Strategic zoom.

Strategic zoom does not add complexity. When I first saw it in SupCom I started to love it. StratZoom is a tool to help you manage complexity, like a minimap helps you managing the complexity of a large playing field. If your game has a playing field that is only 3 screens wide and high, strategic zoom doesn't make it complex. It makes what is on the map easier to handle if properly supplemented with unit representation (icons when you zoom out).

Quite frankly, the only reason I can imagine speaking against strat zoom is how fast you can execute actions with it. Having played Starcraft 2 I would guess that I can be slightly faster in that framework with aminimap, than I would with StratZoom. But apart from that, I think StratZoom is a super elegant system almost any RTS can benefit from. No matter how simple or complex.

Frogboy

Just because you prefer game X over game Y doesn't change objective truths. One could just as easily argue that Ashes, in having quanta and orbital abilities is thus a "Deeper" game than TA.

Sorry in advance if the following isn't new to you, but from the posts I read, I am really not sure (and hope to help).

The existance of a feature doesn't make a game deeper. It makes it more complex.

Complexity is the amount of stuff you can learn (i.e. are not obscured too much) about game mechanics. The amount of upgrades, armor types, unit types, relations between upgrades (trees have many relations for example), is weather conditions, formations, etc.pp.

Depth I would measure by how many different situations you can expect to run into. A situation I would consider distinct from another if I have to act differently in the one as opposed to the other. Balance is vital here and makes the difference between a game being not only complex but also deep.

An example: Let's assume your game has 3 different units, than there are 7 different combinations of units (ignoring numbers per unit, which will ofc increase this number a lot). If one of these combinations just outright crushes all the others, you have a game which has a complexity of 7 unit combinations, you could be facing, but a depth of 1 situation, since the crushing combination is the thing you are doing regardless of what your enemy throws at you.

edit; I should possibly also add, that I am not intending to be nitpicky over the words complex and deep here. My point is, that it is for a designer to see the complexity going into a game, but to the player, the depth coming out of the game is the relevant quantity. I use the two words to describe two very different things here.

on Oct 21, 2016

Interesting discussion - I can see why Stardock wants to leave the base game for the people that want a quick playing RTS game without other stuff to learn.  I could understand from a marketing point of view that you would want to address both audiences.  So having a post to review the reasons for the split direction of the development from the base game to Escalation makes perfect good sense and practical to promote this new game direction.  We want you guys to make money but would like to see the game become more in depth and have more units and more complexity.  Obviously there is a market for the quick to play 1-2 hour RTS game and if there is enough people that only want that why not support them so that ground breaking effort to create the Nitrous game engine will be profitable and serve both communities.

However I rather have a more in depth game like you are envisioning for Escalation.  But realistically the marketplace for any in depth complex strategy game is a small niche market place in a world where MMOPG, E-Sports, and more conventional RTS games dominate.  SO it would seem prudent not to ignore the other market for the game while seeking to make it more complex for those of us that want more than the game currently offers.

 

As a founder I applaud this post and the discussion that Draginol has started to explain the reasons for the future direction of the game.  Whether the base game includes strategic zoom or tech trees to me is really a marketing and PR thing and serves a customer base that is not directed at me and I am happy to leave it to Stardock's discretion as to what should or should not be included for those that want Ashes to become more "Total Annihilation" like.

on Oct 22, 2016

This looks really interesting. I've been enjoying the campaign and I may try the multiplayer if I ever get time. You guys seem to be doing a pretty good job building Ashes. Keep up the good work! Escalation seems like a really solid expansion.

on Oct 23, 2016

wy the Multiplayer Scenarios will be so late?

Its a very powerfull tool that can grab mush more players to the multiplayer and I think it should be a priority with the launch of escalation.

Meta
Views
» 35963
Comments
» 15
Sponsored Links