Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

 

EscalationGradient

This is going to be long and go into both Escalation, the development of Ashes of the Singularity and discuss the technological singularity.

Our story so far…

imageThis past Spring Stardock released the real-time strategy game, Ashes of the Singularity.  It’s a game set in the post-technological singularity future in which humans have begun to expand to other planets.  In this future, a single individual is so powerful that they can manage entire armies of semi-autonomous machines called constructs.  In Ashes of the Singularity, the player is part of the PHC (The Post-Human Coalition) tasked with dealing with renegade humans as well as dealing with a new enemy: The Substrate.

The game received generally favorable reviews with gamers praising the adoption of modern hardware to deliver an unprecedented scale to the genre and gorgeous visuals (provided you had the hardware).  But the game was also criticized for having a campaign that felt tacked on, uninspired art direction and a tendency for those thousands of units to end up being a giant unmanageable blob late game due to the game’s insistence on keeping the camera relatively close to the action and a general feeling of missing strategic depth.

In November, we are releasing the first expansion pack, Escalation, which aims to address those criticisms and more. 

For Escalation to be successful, we first needed to think long and hard about some of the basic premises for the game.  And now for those thoughts…

Not a technology demo

image

Since Ashes of the Singularity was the first DirectX 12 game and includes a built in benchmark for testing DirectX 12 thoroughly, it naturally received a lot of coverage for its state-of the art engine, Nitrous.  This caused many people to conclude that the game itself was a technology demo.  And to be honest, while that wasn’t our intention, a pretty decent chunk of our time and budget was spent on the underlying technology to drive the game which naturally meant less time to think about the game itself.

With real-time strategy games, you can’t really escape addressing the technological requirements.  I’ll spare you the details here as I wrote about it, at length over at IGN. So it is true that a lot of our thought was going into how to build Ashes of the Singularity since, for us, Ashes of the Singularity is a long-term project for us.  We strongly believe that there is demand for real-time strategy games, the challenge is to make any new RTS compelling.

imageMisconceptions

It wasn’t until Ashes of the Singularity was released and we started talking to other RTS developers that we realized our market misconception on the genre became fully realized.

Here is the short version: In the age of digital distribution your game competes with every game that has ever been made.

When we released Sins of a Solar Empire in 2008 we were only competing with the other 38 SCUs at Walmart.  What some other RTS had in the past was irrelevant because it was not competing with us for sales.  Sins of a Solar Empire didn’t have to compete against a Homeworld: Ultimate Edition or really even Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance (other than at the beginning). 

Ashes of the Singularity was released fully realized. Every unit, map, etc. was planned from the start.  We added a campaign (something Sins didn’t have) a couple months before release because players wanted one.   So from our perspective, Ashes of the Singularity was the most mature new game we’d ever released.  Months of QA and testing along with great support from AMD, Microsoft, Intel and NVIDIA meant the game wasn’t buggy on release.  Both races came with about 15 units each, a strong AI and lots of maps.  So great right? Wrong.

Your game competes against every game ever

Game Price on Steam
Company of Heroes  $19.99
Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance $14.99
Age of Empires II HD $19.99
Ashes of the Singularity $49.99

One of these is not like the other.

The argument “But Ashes of the Singularity is new!” is not very compelling on its own. 

The player wants to know “Why should I pay $50 for your game when I can get these other games, that have a lot more stuff, have been vetted for years, have established communities are less than half the price?”

Ashes vs. The World

So what makes Ashes of the Singularity distinct?

  1. Ashes of the Singularity can support huge world-wide armies…But SupCom: FA supports pretty large armies and has strategic zoom so managing them is easy.
  2. Ashes of the Singularity has true line of sight…But Company of Heroes has that too and takes cover and position into consideration for calculation damage.
  3. Ashes of the Singularity has a really good single player sandbox with great AI…but Company of Heroes has pretty good AI too.

In fact, if you were to make a table of features comparing recently released RTS games to the classic and the comparison chart looks pretty brutal right now.  It’s not that the RTS market has died, it’s that new RTS games don’t compare well against games with $20 million+ budgets from the past. 

What Ashes has going for it is technology.  It is a brand new, 64-bit, multi-core, 4th generation engine.  The first of its kind.   What it needs is time to build up the content and refinement of the classics.

Unfortunately, it was released under the old retail model. It’s a new, fully featured game and thus is $49.99 – the same price or less than other new RTS games when they were released at retail.  That model no longer works.

Finding your niche

The original plan for Ashes of the Singularity was that it would be a roughly 15 unit per faction game with DLC and expansions adding new races, maps, naval (add say 4 naval units) and stay very accessible as a strategy game.  In our PR for Ashes, we talked about Ashes being a “reintroduction” to the RTS genre for a new generation.  With hindsight, that’s breathtaking naiveté.  People interested in dipping their toes into the RTS market could try out Supreme Commander 2 for $5 during the next Steam sale.  Even if youdon’t like Supreme Commander 2, you must admit that it does a pretty decent job as a casual introduction to RTS games (92% review score on Steam btw).

For Ashes of the Singularity to succeed, it has to find a niche that can leverage its strengths that no other game has now or is likely to have in the near future:

  • No one can touch Ashes AI potential. The engine scales almost linearly today to 10 cores. We are not aware of any other RTS that scales beyond 2 cores. That means the AI can keep getting more sophisticated over time.
  • No one can touch Ashes potential for strategic depth. Potential being the operative word since it doesn’t have that today.  From a simulation point of view, Ashes can do crazy complex stuff.  The game needs to evolve in that direction.
  • No one can touch Ashes visual potential presently.  5K montiors? 8K monitors? Ashes loves them.  HDR color? Vulkan? Movie quality lighting? Ashes can do all of that and more. 
  • Ashes has amazing modding potential if we can get tools and exporters to the community.  With 64-bit memory and a data driven engine, modders could literally recreate every RTS they ever wanted. We just have to build the tools for modders to do this.

But the key takeaway is niche. It has to find its own niche.  You can’t be all things to all people when you’re competing against every game ever made.

Escalation vs. Ashes

By this Summer, we realized we had two different paths we wanted to take simultaneously.  We still wanted to have an RTS that acted as a good modern introduction to the genre.  One that was constantly supported with improvements and updates but also kept fairly approachable and inexpensive.  We also wanted an RTS with immense depth and detail that was most definitely niche in its demographic.  This game would target the experienced RTS gamer who has always wanted to run a world wide war against lots of opponents and deals with lots of resources and strategies and doesn’t feel rushed. 

From these two contrary visions we got:

Ashes of the Singularity (the base game)

and

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

Supporting early adopters

The idea of pricing Ashes of the Singularity to compete on price at $19.99 sounds great on paper until you remember that a lot of people paid $49.99 for the base game.  They have to be made whole otherwise you are punishing your most loyal fans. How do address this?

Because we know the Founders and those who were in Early Access we can do something for them: Give them all the DLC for Escalation until they get enough DLC that it more than makes up for the price difference.  Whether that be a year or three years.

imageEscalation Design Premise

I’m going to be up front about this.  Escalation isn’t for everyone.  We are adding a lot more units. A lot more map types. We eventually will be adding more types of resources along with more units that will require those resources types.  There will be units you build that you will automate to go and do things for you.  In short, you will be building a machine. It’s an RTS with a lot more depth than the base game.  That’s another reason why the base game will continue to be developed and evolve too because some people will want a simpler, lighter RTS.

 

Next up: What’s new!


Comments (Page 1)
on Oct 17, 2016

Actually great news.

Like i said before, ashes with more content = really good game. 

So keep up the good work.

on Oct 17, 2016

Thank you for all the info and though that you gave us about AOTS and were your taking it. And its good to know that you know that the game still need so much more to make it a good RTS Game, (modding tools, Naval, more units, more  automation, and way more Depth.)

Like you said the game have so much potential, yes i do believe that it does have it but thats where Stardock come to work on

I do think that you guys need to give priorities to AOTS

  • First: Make the game bug free (fix the multiple building queue bug, Fix the units not defending itself, fix the radar not working correctly with long range units and defenses, etc..) so much more. just make it Bug free Before adding more to it.
    Create some kind of excel file in the forums or web and add all the bugs and what are you guys working on for them to get fixed.
    By having 1 stupid bug you can have a lot of people giving the game a lot of negativity and you guys don't want that to happen.
  • Second: Its been more than a year and there is no modding support of any kind yet, that should change a little.
  • Third: expand the game.

Sorry i am not here to tell you guys what to do, its just that there are some bugs that may be easy to fix and have been there since launch. and it bother me and many of us who play the game and the new payers may leave because if 1 small bug.

Paying $50 for a game is not the problem here, AOTS for me is a AAA game made by a great company, every new AAA game out there cost $59.99 and no one bitch about it, they just pay for it,

I did pay $99 for AOTS lifetime founder and not for a second i did think it was not worth the money, AOTS is worth every penny i put into that game.

why? Everyone who play the game know that it need to get better, they know what it need to get fixed, of course you can never make everyone happy, but at least your working on that, and that's were Stadock/Oxide is showing us that you love your own game and that you guys a working everyday to make it better and better, by knowing that i will never bitch about how much money i put into the game, Blizzard does a awesome job supporting its games for many years  to come. but EA? or Ubisoft? Call of duty Franchise? Never! and those guys charge $$$ a lot for their game and no says anything, a year later they make a new game using the same franchise and people will go on and pay another $60. but whatever.

Anyway i just want to ask you to please start fixing all those bugs that are happening with the game right now. we are here with you on the long run too.

We want to play a Fun game, without bitching on why my units don't shoot back at the enemy!

Thank you in advance for reading.

on Oct 17, 2016

Yikes, you know Steam reviews are meaningless when Supreme Commander 2 has a higher score than Ashes. Anyways, I've loved this game since the day I booted it up, and will continue to push it to everyone I know with even a passing interest in RTS. I hope Escalation gets you guys back in to the spotlight and keeps the sales going.

on Oct 17, 2016

the game wasn’t buggy on release

Uhh.. look, I like the game, but I'll also be honest it has crashed a few more times than Starcraft II... or most other games.  

I think you're dreaming on this note.

 

The player wants to know “Why should I pay $50 for your game when I can get these other games, that have a lot more stuff, have been vetted for years, have established communities are less than half the price?”


I paid $40 for legacy of the Void last year, I think. No complaints there. It can happen. But the game needs to be right. 


Escalation isn’t for everyone.  We are adding a lot more units. A lot more map types. We eventually will be adding more types of resources along with more units that will require those resources types.  There will be units you build that you will automate to go and do things for you.  In short, you will be building a machine. It’s an RTS with a lot more depth than the base game. 

 

Yay! Keep trucking.


on Oct 17, 2016

@ASADDF

Ashes has plenty of modding support right now.  There's an included map editor. Anyone can make scenarios.  You can easily modify the units in the game. You can modify the UI.

If you want to argue that there should be more modding support, that's fine, but to say there's none, that's just plain incorrect.

Similarly, the design of what happens when you multi-select buildings and give buidl ordres isn't a bug.  It's just a design you don't like.  The design was to send your build order to the least busy factory.  You may not like it but it's not a bug.  We are probably going to change it so that it duplicates the order to all selected buildings. But please don't call it a "bug".

Ashes updates with bug fixes and improvements are planned for years to come.  I'd like to think that we've already demonstrated our commitment to Ashes with all the improvements/fixes/new content we've already added.

 

on Oct 17, 2016

I'd argue that the modding support is opaque and no one knows wtf is there because there has been next to zero information, never mind tools, released about it.

 

Modders flocked to Sins in droves because devs were talking about all the cool things you could do with the entity files using a text editor.  Everyone knew it was going to be candy land before it even finished, half the big sci-fi settings were already staked out by the time it left beta.  The only things beyond "Ashes will be modder friendly" type comments that I've seen, since alpha, are map editing, which is as much about mod support as the crack of my ass, maybe less, I've been told I have my head up my ass on occasion.  Map editors have been a typical feature since the 90's.

on Oct 17, 2016

psychoak

I'd argue that the modding support is opaque and no one knows wtf is there because there has been next to zero information, never mind tools, released about it.

 

Modders flocked to Sins in droves because devs were talking about all the cool things you could do with the entity files using a text editor.  Everyone knew it was going to be candy land before it even finished, half the big sci-fi settings were already staked out by the time it left beta.  The only things beyond "Ashes will be modder friendly" type comments that I've seen, since alpha, are map editing, which is as much about mod support as the crack of my ass, maybe less, I've been told I have my head up my ass on occasion.  Map editors have been a typical feature since the 90's.

Nonsense.  Your memory on Sins is just plain wrong. 

Anyone could open up a scenario in notepad and make their own. It's easy.  

Sins is not that easy to mod. It's that modders took the time to take it apart.

 

on Oct 17, 2016

Frogboy

@ASADDF

Ashes has plenty of modding support right now.  There's an included map editor. Anyone can make scenarios.  You can easily modify the units in the game. You can modify the UI.

If you want to argue that there should be more modding support, that's fine, but to say there's none, that's just plain incorrect.

Similarly, the design of what happens when you multi-select buildings and give buidl ordres isn't a bug.  It's just a design you don't like.  The design was to send your build order to the least busy factory.  You may not like it but it's not a bug.  We are probably going to change it so that it duplicates the order to all selected buildings. But please don't call it a "bug".

Ashes updates with bug fixes and improvements are planned for years to come.  I'd like to think that we've already demonstrated our commitment to Ashes with all the improvements/fixes/new content we've already added.

 

hmm If you select 6 factory's and build a uniT your expecting the 6 factory's to all build that unit.  Pretty sure in its current state it adds 1 unit randomly to the factory's then deselects them.  now you have to go back through and figure out which of the 6 factory's actually has the unit building and which doesn't then add them one at a time.   That's the facts, in its current form it's as useful as a chocolate teapot.  Pretty sure enough people have complained about it repeatedly on the forums and this is the first time it's been said that someone somewhere deliberately inflicted that on players.  

on Oct 17, 2016

Try pausing those factories. If you want to pause all 6 factories... good luck with that. You can't pause more than one, unless you manually click on them all individually. There is no ctrl tab like in other games to cycle through them.

Or add a new factory to the control group when one is already paused. Doesn't show up to unpause. As a different factory now has top level priority.

Or try to add a new factory to a pre-existing control group when a factory is building. You can't, as "one is building" and you have to wait for it to finish.

These "design decisions" are... less than optimal.

 

I do like the sound of where escalation is going though. 

 

Suggestions

- Add in DLC content as being visible for users but greyed out, so they know what they are missing out on.

- Add more scenarios. They are good time wasters. I can't see anything more than KOTH and tutorial. I presume there are other DLCs i can buy, but i dont really know. 

on Oct 17, 2016

Frogboy

Ashes has plenty of modding support right now. There's an included map editor. Anyone can make scenarios. You can easily modify the units in the game. You can modify the UI.

Yes I know that i have been using the Map Editor Since alpha and I love it, and I know you can easy modify the game units, UI, and everything in the game but I was not talking about that at all, what i meant is there is no easy way to export/import designs, there is no easy way to share maps/configs/UI that you make with other players, there is no there is no Modding directory in the game for you to test/play/expand the game they way you want it.

 

Frogboy

Similarly, the design of what happens when you multi-select buildings and give buidl ordres isn't a bug. It's just a design you don't like. The design was to send your build order to the least busy factory. You may not like it but it's not a bug. We are probably going to change it so that it duplicates the order to all selected buildings. But please don't call it a "bug".

I am not talking about that either and i guess you did not get what i am trying to mean about that bug, I love the way you did with the using the least busy factory when you have multiple buildings chosen. that perfect and i don't want you to change it, what it bothers me is when I click repeat queue while I have multiple factories selected, that does not work! the Factories does not repeat the queue after choosing all the factories with the units that i want, I do think its a bug.

 

Frogboy

Ashes updates with bug fixes and improvements are planned for years to come. I'd like to think that we've already demonstrated our commitment to Ashes with all the improvements/fixes/new content we've already added.

yes you did and I thank you for your ongoing support and I hope you keep doing it for many years to come.

 

Richy_Young

hmm If you select 6 factory's and build a uniT your expecting the 6 factory's to all build that unit. Pretty sure in its current state it adds 1 unit randomly to the factory's then deselects them. now you have to go back through and figure out which of the 6 factory's actually has the unit building and which doesn't then add them one at a time. That's the facts, in its current form it's as useful as a chocolate teapot. Pretty sure enough people have complained about it repeatedly on the forums and this is the first time it's been said that someone somewhere deliberately inflicted that on players.

 

Thank you Richy_Young  I love the way how the game manage that, but again I was not talking about that, my problem is with the Repeat Queue Option in the game when you have multiple Factories Selected, you click on the repeat queue checkbox while selecting multiple factories, but the repeat queue does not work. even when the repeat queue checkbox is enabled( the factories will stop making units ) so you have to go back and do it again one by one.

And not only repeat queue does not work, even the pause and resume queue does not work when you have multiple factories selected or any other Structure that build.

Thanks to Frogboy and Richy_Young for answering my questions.

on Oct 18, 2016

Is it possible/feasible to open up modding support for the AI more than is already available?  I've figured out how to alter the existing personalities/difficulties, and I am hoping to be able to tune the unit AI/player AI. E.g. Rise of Nations, SoaSE and Earth 2150 allowed the player to tune the unit AI to different degrees of specificity.

 

I am essentially asking if custom AI would be possible,  especially as Escalation is adding units that might be completely automated. It would be sweet to mod in our own custom unit designs that go and perform their own role.

on Oct 18, 2016

Is it possible so add a posibility to attach factories to an army, so that those factories would reinforce that army (meta unit) directly?

Cause atm, there is a problem that if you request a reinforcements, there is no possible way to assign closest factories to production. And as far i see, requested units can be produced on the most distant factory, instead of using closest one. Ofc you could do it manually, but i would apreciate if we could actually assign factories to an army. 

on Oct 18, 2016

Orachin

Is it possible so add a posibility to attach factories to an army, so that those factories would reinforce that army (meta unit) directly?

Cause atm, there is a problem that if you request a reinforcements, there is no possible way to assign closest factories to production. And as far i see, requested units can be produced on the most distant factory, instead of using closest one. Ofc you could do it manually, but i would apreciate if we could actually assign factories to an army. 

 

Agree. Seems like same issues keep coming up in forum again and again.

Maybe it's jsut same people posting same ideas.. not sure... but many of the repeats are important issues.

 

on Oct 18, 2016

Orachin

Is it possible so add a posibility to attach factories to an army, so that those factories would reinforce that army (meta unit) directly?

Cause atm, there is a problem that if you request a reinforcements, there is no possible way to assign closest factories to production. And as far i see, requested units can be produced on the most distant factory, instead of using closest one. Ofc you could do it manually, but i would apreciate if we could actually assign factories to an army. 

this is already in there if you select a meta group it has a build menu come up, any units you build from that menu will use a currently idle factory to build a unit and send it straight to your meta group.  I personally don't use it though because you can not see very easily what's in the que and no one likes queuing 50 units to build.  thats why someone invented repeat build ques.   It's much more predictAble to have your factorys doing Ques  simply group the factory's to ctrl group 1 and change the rally point in the fly. 

Remember the meta function can play havok with unit movenents.  Last thing you want is a group of t1 units running backwards across the map to group with a t2 to then move them alll back to where they where. 

on Oct 18, 2016

Richy_Young

Remember the meta function can play havok with unit movenents. Last thing you want is a group of t1 units running backwards across the map to group with a t2 to then move them alll back to where they where.

In Escalation that does not happen anymore, but at the same time its a problem, because when you create a Meta Unit and send it to a location the faster one will get there first, and if that happens you may loose the war if yuo meet another Meta unit that will destroy the smallest unit first while the slower one are still moving to get to that specific location.

So i am not sure how Stardock will optimize that when they release the game in a few weeks.

Meta
Views
» 36949
Comments
» 30
Sponsored Links