Galactic Civilizations III: BETA 3 arrives

Published on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 By Frogboy In Journals - GalCiv III

Greetings! Welcome to the sausage factory!

Beta 3 of Galactic Civilizations III has arrived with lots of new changes and improvements. We still have a long way to go but progress is swift.

 

A few highlights

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Beta 3 brings the Yor into the game.  We’re still playing around with how they “breed”.  The current plan is to have the player actually manufacture more Yor on the planet. 

The Yor are a synthetic, pre-singularity lifeform.  Long ago, the Yor were the servants of a race called the Iconians. Naturally, they eventually rose up and took over the planet.  The Yor home planet is Iconia which never amuses the Iconians and their lawyers. 

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The Yor get their own ship parts to ensure that their ships are visually and functionally distinct from the other races.

 

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The govern button on the bottom right is still newish and has a long way to go still before release. Eventually, players will want to automate this via governors to keep their massive empires from spiraling into a micromanagement abyss. Our hope is to have the governors rely less on AI and more on letting players set priorities and have it automate itself.

 

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The shipyards have gotten a lot nicer as players can now more easily control which planets are feeding which shipyards.  We have a lot of balancing and pacing to do. Even today, we’re working our way through the default ships and capital planets to boost the early game pacing significantly.

 

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The cinematics team has begun to deliver some amazing stuff to help bring you into the GalCiv universe. This is the first past of better visuals, music and sound since the original beta release.

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Tooltips continue to improve in order to provide better information.  Much still to do but little by little, the UI is coming together.

 

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A big part of what we hope will make GalCiv III much  more appealing to a wider audience is the time we’re spending trying to really visually deliver the new worlds players are colonizing.  Tell us what you think in the comments!

If you want to join the adventure, you can visit our store at: http://www.galciv3.com/store

Binpress podcast on the history of Stardock

Published on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

I was on this month’s Binpress with Alexis Santos.  We talked a great deal about how Stardock got started and where the PC software and game industries are heading.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to start your own business from scratch you'll want to listen to this.    I was 20 years old when I started the company back in college from my dorm room.  This gives the gritty backstory, warts and all.

->Full Podcast

Stardock 2014 end of year album

Published on Monday, December 15, 2014 By Frogboy In Home & Family

Greetings!  It’s the end of the year and here are some pics from work.

 

To the team: I suck. I apologize. I had said I’d get a photo album going this year and while it is still technically 2014, it’s the last week before we close down for the year.  On the bright side, this year is not just picture of the Stardock dogs (though Arrow is in a few of these but Bailey and Maggie are not).

 

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Stardock in the evening.  Adam is in the first one. He is the poor guy who has to clean up after whatever PR horror I’ve got us into that week.  Kristin our GM is meeting with Adrian and Bruce and lastly Jenna, our lead UI artist is making icons.

 

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On the left, Sam is back from maternity leave! Hooray! With Emily, our superstar HR manager.  Rob and Bilal talking tech. The dynamic duo of Jillian & Nikki do basically all of our web graphics design (not forgetting Katie but I couldn’t find her to take a pic).  Meanwhile, Stardock Chairman, Arrow is keeping an eye while Steph (like all of us) do whatever he needs.

 

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The gang doing their thing.  The Fitness room was added this year to prevent people from ending up like me.  The Tachyon leads are scheming about..Tachyon while the Cinematics team is cooking up a lot of coolness for next year.

 

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The Azure team (Lou and Sarah) along with a Sarah Prime (our lead gameplay coder on GalCiv III) working on the battle system for GalCiv III.  And Chris is coming up with new Azure stuff to do.

 

I will try to get more up before the end of the year. I apologize for procrastinating. Winking smile

For those of you on vacation and weren’t in the pics. Remember what I always say: Friendship, Family, Religion, these are the 3 demons you must slay to be successful in business. Winking smile 

More to come.

Sorcerer King: Pacing test

Published on Saturday, December 13, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

I need more analytics in the game to do this properly but this is a start.

How long should a game last? That depends on the game. 

Sorcerer King, for me, as the designer, is meant to take elements of Master of Magic, Star control and FTL and put them together.  While those games may seem dissimilar, they each have key ingredients that I think can be blended together to create something really spectacular.

And Sorcerer King is turning out spectacularly.

Map Size Ranges:

These are random maps so they’ll have random shapes. As maps get bigger, the shard dots (the white diamonds) will get smaller. You

 

Tiny maps

Land tiles: 300 to 800

Shards: 8

Time to play: 1 hour 45 minutes

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Small Maps

Land tiles: 450 to 1200

Shards: 8-9

Time to play: 2:30 minutes

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Medium Maps

Land tiles: 800 to 1600

Shards: 9-10

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Large Maps (for the hard core)

Land Tiles: 2200 to 2800

Shards: 11 to 12

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Huge Maps (for crazy people)

Land Tiles: 3000 to 5000

Shards: 12

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Misc. Screenshots

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Just thought this looked cool. Winking smile

Sorcerer King Developer to Beta Team Q&A

Published on Saturday, December 13, 2014 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

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We’ve got questions for the beta team:

  1. Some people have said that Sorcerer King looks a lot like Legendary Heroes.  What do you think people mean by this and what would be the most effective way to make sure the two games are visually distinct?
  2. We are debating a lot about camera rotation.  The game supports it and we plan to have an option for it.  The question is, what would you like to see as the default and why?
  3. We have the Magic slider in the game setup.  Right now, the plan for this was to have it determine how fast the Doomsday Counter goes up along with how much magic you receive from shards.  But we would like to hear from the beta team how they would like to see this slider used.
  4. So far, what is your FAVORITE part of the game?
  5. Similarly, what is your least favorite part of the game?
  6. For those of you playing heavily, what types of spells would you like to see in the game that we don’t currently have?
  7. Which Sovereign so far is your favorite and why?
  8. Which Sovereign is your least favorite?
  9. Which types of quests do you enjoy going on the most?
  10. Which types of quests do you enjoy the least?

Thanks!

DirectX 12 vs. DirectX 11

Published on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

Windows 10 will be coming with DirectX 12.  DirectX 12 is the first version of DirectX that really uses multiple cores effectively.

Below are two slides provided by Microsoft:

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DirectX 11: See how much of the work is done on the first core?

 

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DirectX 12, the work gets split up.

Bottom line: In DirectX 11 this frame took almost 9ms to render.  In DirectX 12, it took about 4ms.  Now, how much real world improvement you get depends heavily on both the developer and the game.  But the reason we’re all getting so excited is that DirectX 12 should be the biggest performance bump for those who utilize it we’ve ever seen.

What this means to you

Next time you watch Jurassic Park or Phantom Menace, please realize that the CGI in those movies can be done in real-time today.  However, most graphics engines in games still render scenes very differently than in movies.  That’s because it’s only recently been possible to create real-world fidelity in real-time.  But a modern machine with DirectX 12 (or Mantle) could do real-time visuals in a game that is as good as you would get in say Lord of the Rings.

The Post-Frame Rate game world

We will need get away from frame rate as being the key metric on its own (unless we’re comparing apples and apples).  The DirectX 12 / Mantle specific games will look unmistakably different than what we have today.

What we basically do today in games is render a frame and then apply a bunch of post-process effects to it.  In a DirectX 12 / Mantle world we’ll render images the same way they did CGI in the past.  With a modern CPU + GPU combo with DirectX 12 you could do parts of the Battle of Helms Deep from LOTR in real-time.  Keep a very close eye on Unreal 4, Frostbite, Crytek and of course Nitrous.

The Missing Kwilas

Published on Wednesday, December 03, 2014 By Frogboy In Everything Else

Some of you know Kris Kwilas as Nakor around here.  He’s been with Stardock since, I think, 1996.  Last week he’s moved from our VP of Technology to being a consultant. He’s going off to do new and great things.  It’s been a long planned move. He gave me a 2 year notice that he was eventually going to do it.  But I feel like my right arm is missing.

Our management team continues to evolve. We’ll have to do a new management page.  These days it’s:

  • Me
  • Angela Marshall (COO)
  • Kristin Hatcher (General Manager)
  • Derek Paxton (VP Stardock Entertainment)
  • Kim Kolaz (Controller)

with

  • Tod Cunningham (Director of Platforms)
  • Adrian Luff (Director of Technology) [Stardock Austin]

 

I still have to recruit a studio head for Stardock Towson (Maryland) but in the meantime lots of traveling (I’m in Maryland this week working on an unannounced game) while Kristin is in Austin this week.

All the while, there’s no Kwilas. I’m bummed.

Have people lost their collective minds?

Published on Tuesday, December 02, 2014 By Frogboy In Misc

I woke up today with my twitter feed full of angry, hateful people. Ok, so what are they mad about this time?  I click on a few tweets and see back where they came from. 

Turns out Zoe Quinn is mad that several weeks ago I tweeted an artist who was looking for a job in the game industry that we’re hiring artists. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I do this several times a week. You want to work in the game industry? Send us your resume.

However, in this particular case, it turns out that the artist had made a crude cartoon about Zoe Quinn at some point in the past (it’s not clear when) and represented my tweet to him as “offering a job to someone who makes revenge porn about me” and showed the offensive cartoon to go with it.  The implication she was making was that a. Offered someone a job and b. based on their disgusting cartoon.  Neither of which is true. 

Needless to say, I called her out on it. Jim Sterling made the same correlation. Totally disgusting. Shame on both of them.

On top of that, they instantly started to try to dredge up false allegations that were made against me years ago.  Allegations that were not only shown to be false but resulted in an apology letter written by the person who made those claims (you can read about that here: http://forums.littletinyfrogs.com/458579).   

So let’s make sure we’re clear: Someone whose made a mini career complaining about people making false allegations about her has no issue taking long debunked claims about me and spreading them. Disgusting.

Bottom line:

Zoe Quinn and her ilk’s message is as clear as it is pathetic: Game developers like myself better blacklist people they deem unacceptable or they’ll face the wrath of their mob and sympathetic game journalists. 

Here’s the problem, Zoe. You misunderstand how the game industry actually functions outside your hugbox: Everyone deserves an opportunity to work in this industry. Their talent, hard work, and merit determine how successful they are. Not their politics. Not who they are friends with. Not whether they’re a man or a woman. Not what color they are.  Talent. Hard work. Merit. 

Learn it. Live it.

SK’s Sunday afternoon work (11-23-2014)

Published on Sunday, November 23, 2014 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

Another Sunday with Sorcerer King.  A lot of progress was made this week. 

So below are the good, the bad, and the ugly things I have to say about Sorcerer King this week. It’ll all be schmushed together.

New Sovereign: Ashlira

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This weekend I mainly played with Ashlira, the Priest.  Scott and I have been designing her for awhile and it’s amazing (but not surprising) how many ideas that look good on paper just don’t work out when implemented.  That’s always the case, particularly with “new IP”.

HighDPI UI

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The high resolution UI is something we really want to get to you guys. It’s a real game changer in terms of user experience (if you’re running at 1920x1080 or higher).  There are still some glitches we have to work through but otherwise, it’s pretty much good to go.

The Spells

The spells have, generally, gotten bumped up in power while costing less. The idea is that when a unit calls the sovereign, they’re giving up their turn which is a sacrifice unto itself.

Random Maps

Other than some UI oddities, the random maps are done.  Generally speaking, there’s no such thing as a bad start. This was something in LH that was a bit of a struggle at times.  This time around, we did the starting points somewhat differently (and there’s a lot more good land in general). 

The main complaint on random maps will be distance from the SK.  We have purposely made a high degree of variability in your distance because there are pros and cons both ways.  I prefer to start close so I can try to gate him in early on but others might find overwhelmed.  It just depends on the map and any number of conditions.

Destiny’s Favor

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The priest gets a set of wishes in the form of Destiny’s Favor.  These are incredibly powerful spells that consume a favor to use. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Rough version of Priest Tree

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This is a rough version of the tree (no artist work yet).  Divine Insight is very interesting because…

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You get a bunch of interesting new dungeon master events.

So in this case, I asked for a recipe:

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BTW, I do fix bugs during the weekend, I just don’t highlight bugs. But for example, recipes didn’t typically show up in the treasure list (due to a bug). This is fixed.

 

Smarter AutoResolve:

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Tactical battles where you are definitely going to win and should be able to do it without any losses now autoresolve that way (not units are hurt).

More Sorcerer King:

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There’s a lot more interaction with the Sorcerer King now.  This will continue to grow.  Basically, we’re going to be testing pacing to see how much is too much.  Right now, we’re aiming for around 15 turns per interaction for *some* reason.

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Smarter tactical battles:

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Thanks to bpalczewski, the tactical battles are getting better.  Still working on this though.

Thralls

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We are still debating whether this will be a Priest only improvement or whether everyone should get it.  It reduces the thrall count by 2 in the city (costs 1 mana to maintain).

Destiny’s Judgment

The Priest doesn’t get very large armies compared to the others but she does get the aforementioned Destiny ‘s Favor.  And in the game I’m in, I have 11 of them. Thankfully.

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Destiny’s judgment fries the world but doesn’t increase doomsday to do it.  It does cost 1 Destiny’s Favor.  The other is Holy Wrath which spreads a holy aura on a bunch of tiles and any enemies who walk through it take damage.

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By late game, the map starts to really look like a warzone.

Test Game

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Doomsday is almost here.

Minimap

If you look at the above screenshot, you can see that the minimap has been redone.  Shards are displayed as diamonds, cities are bit blocks and SK units are little dots.

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It’s a lot cleaner.  Now, this is on a small map that I’ve been playing for hours and as you can see, I’ve only cleared a small percentage. My doomsday counter was a lot higher than it really should be (I should have about 50 more points) due to a quest bug I ran into.

Arrgh!

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I got greedy and waited a turn before attacking the SK to build up more mana!

Loading up saved game!

BTW, this game on a small map is 3 hours and 10 minutes of me playing.

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My main champion at the end of the game.

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On loading the saved game I don’t waste that 1 turn.  Forgive the ghetto looking map. Lots of units though.

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I ultimately lost.  I learned the hard way, if you’re facing a guy called The Sorcerer King, you should probably craft some magical resistance gear so that his spells don’t cream ya.

 

After Hours

So 3 hours or so to play on a small map.  We had targeted being able to play a small map in 2 hours if you were a regular player.  So I think there’s still some pacing.  I modified the roads so that they let you move a lot faster.  I think I’ll have to do more with that.  The pacing on the getting new spells and skills is definitely too slow.  Either the costs need to be brought down or we need more “stuff” we can craft or build in our cities.

Speaking of crafting, I am looking forward to the new crafting system being in.  I definitely felt a plateauing of the available gear to craft. 

Overall pretty happy how it went. 

More next week!

Let's talk about the Priest

Published on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King

The next sovereign to come up is the Priest.

The priest is going to be the sovereign that does the best at keeping the Doomsday counter under control as well as decreasing the perceived threat they pose to the Sorcerer King.

Broadly speaking, the Priest is going to get a special resource called Destiny's Favor. They will start with 3 of them and come with an assortment of unique to the priest spells that are incredibly powerful but consume one of these favors. So consider the priest as being the sovereign with a bit of a connection to higher powers.

I intended to go into more detail but I'm a bit under the weather. So I will open the floor to hear some of the things you would like to see and see how we might be able to fit them in to the priest.

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