GalCiv III: Expansion 1 talk

Published on Monday, August 31, 2015 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Founders

The 1.x version of GalCiv III continues to grow and thrive. 

In the next couple of months, we'll be starting to send out beta notices for the first expansion which is due out next year.

There's going to be a lot of pretty fundamental changes to the game that we think you're going to like.

If you have any requests in particular, feel free to post them here.


Cheers!

Running a galactic civilization

Published on Sunday, August 30, 2015 By Frogboy In Galactic Civilizations III

So there's been a lot of great discussion about the direction we plan to take the game in terms of removing the production wheel from the planet govern screen.

This post will probably be a bit disorganized, I apologize in advance.

Planetary management today:

The player goes to a govern button and can play around with the planet's production wheel to optimize its production.

The problem with this is that you HAVE to do this in order to optimally play the game.  I know that many of our core players really like this but it's extremely off-putting to the vast majority of the player-base.  We also find it extremely gamey.  Specifically, it trivializes the fact that this is a colony on an alien world that is supposed to be unique.

When you play the game, you notice how many little cut scenes we have to try to convey what it means to be doing these things.  We do this because it matters to us that players are given the feeling of weight of what it means to be colonizing other planets.  It's why we have technologies like Xeno Farming. You can't just grow corn on these worlds. 

Features like the per-planet spending ultimately result in a planet being simply another "resource" in your empire.  That's not what we want this game to be about.

If you played GalCiv II, which had a total of $800k budget, you can click on the details screen and see all the time and energy we put into what is largely fluff stuff (statistics, man on the streets opinions, history, etc.). 

GalCiv III's planet management is very soulless in our view and we have the opportunity to do some interesting things with it in this engine.

Planetary management: The future = you are the leader of a civilization, not a mayor

Many players have stated they are looking forward to admirals and commanders and such for fleets.  But few talk about the importance of good leaders in government.  

Where I'd like to see government aspect of the game go, in the long-run, is towards the concept of Governors and Senators. These were things we touched on in GalCiv II but we literally had insufficient memory to cram anything else into that game by the end of its last expansion.  But GalCiv III is 64-bit, we can make this extremely interesting and sophisticated.

Thus, the direction we are looking to go is where you would recruit governors to run your planets.  You would assign it to a planet and they'd have their own special abilities. Maybe one governor IS a micro manager and having him as your governor lets you micro the spending ratios on that particular planet.  Another might be really good for managing finances, another at research, and so on.

In none of these cases is the governor actually constructing anything on the planets for you.  That system would be separate in which you could set up templates or set up a particular weighting and tell the governor to execute on that that plan.  I.e. the governor is still beholden to you.

Beyond planets: Sectors = Senators

Beyond the governors are the Senators. In a game where you only have 5 planets, who needs another level of abstraction? But in the future, if you have thousands of planets, you are going to need a bureaucracy to run this civilization.  This is where vast amounts of political features can be integrated.  This part would need to go through a lengthy beta with players to nail it down but the idea being that as you go up the tech tree, you gain access to lots of interesting political abilities that you can choose to implement as part of your strategy. Things like a cabinet, a senate and elections start to become very interesting additions to the game.

 

Discussing the AI

The team is always looking for ways to improve the AI. They took the path in GalCiv III to make it very moddable and that direction will continue.  When I wrote the GalCiv II AI, it was not moddable at all.  I would, in a background thread, simulate future turns to predict what I thought players would do and then try to counter it.  That design precluded scripting because I was reacting to other players as much as I was implementing my own strategy. 

Now, on the forums, the AI gets talked about a lot.  We take it very seriously to the point the 1.4 is mostly going to be about AI.  But at the same time, we really need some of the more..earnest players to understand some underlying facts: Each day, thousands of games of GalCiv III are played. We record the setup stats. 85%+ of players don't play above normal.  Over half of players play at BELOW normal.   And while they may not post, they are just as much as a customer as frequent posters.   For them, bad UI, alien interaction, constructor spam, boring invasions are far far more concerning to them than whether the AI is challenging to someone who has mastered mid-maxing and has level 17 banks.

Thus, design updates to the game aren't about making it "easier" for the AI.  They don't even factor in.  In the long-run, the AI will keep getting better and better as we mine the data we get, look at saved games people send us and just plain get better at the game ourselves.  What I can do, adamantly, is that we won't be prioritizing engineering hours into thwarting really edge case strategies (i.e. if you create a custom race with these bonuses and these starting conditions and do X, Y and Z you can get a huge advantage).  We can't focus on that kind of thing.  Most players don't even use custom races. That is, most people just play as the Terran Alliance (which kills my soul given how much budget has been spent on the customization aspects).  That is, they don't even modify the Terran Alliance. They just play as them as-is.  

The point is: While I love hanging out and posting with you guys, engineering hours have to take into account the entire player base. Not just people who post on forums.

 

What's next?

So 1.4 will be AI centric and continue the work on the planetary governor stuff.  We also want to tackle the way constructors are handled but that won't make it into 1.4.  

Cheers!

GalCiv III v1.4 Preliminary Discussion

Published on Friday, August 28, 2015 By Frogboy In Galactic Civilizations III

Greetings!

First off, thank you so much for being part of our community.  I've been making GalCiv games for nearly my entire adult life (23 years and counting).  You guys are what makes it worth it.

Secondly, so to recap our story so far:

1.0 released in May.  

1.0x series in May/June. Bug fixes, AI tweaks, balance.

1.1 released in July (delayed due to Steam June summer Sale). Lots of usability improvements, more content, bug fixes.

1.2 released in August focused on adding the Mega Event System. Minor AI updates.  Bug fixes. Balance.

1.3 is nearly ready, September release. Focus is on UI improvements based on player feedback. Reduce micro-management.  This was the first of the post-release updates based on player feedback. Basic stab at planetary automation.

So this brings us to 1.4.

1.4 is almost purely about AI and game balance.  There will be more work on the governors.  

We ARE going to get rid of the per planet spending wheel.  I know many of you like it but it is just incredibly tedious to deal with and violates the general spirit of GalCiv (there's a reason we never had this in previous GalCivs, it's not like we hadn't thought of it).  In its place will be something different. We'd like to hear what YOU would like to see in there.

The AI work is going to focus on AI adaptation to player strategies and adding more goodies for modders to create custom AI mods.  The measurable objective for 1.4 is that on NORMAL the AI should be able to beat most players with the higher levels being substantially improved.  

Part of the improvements will come from design changes.  The game isn't designed with players getting >1 million credits per turn for instance.  So there will be some balance work to address some of the unintentional exponential growth tweaks.

Another area of improvements will come from improvements to the AI trading.

What's your view?

Ashes Alpha 0.50 Change log

Published on Thursday, August 27, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

Greetings!

I know it’s only been a week since the big update but…we have another big update!

Release date: NOW

  • Gameplay

    • Power removed as a resource

    • Battlegroups can now be made out of groups of T1s or groups of T2s.  No strict hierarchy for low level units is required.

    • Units accelerate and move faster

    • Units engaged in battle move at 25% their normal speed.

    • Lots of misc AI improvements

    • Smarties are more powerful

    • Artemis track targets a little closer in

    • Capture time lowered from 30 seconds to 15 seconds

    • Capture distance incrased from 150 to 300

    • Gameplay setup options

      • Neutral Defenders on/off

      • Prebuilt Extractors on/off

      • Full Fog of War on/off

    • Auto-save enabled by default

  • Menus & Multiplayer Functionality

    • Singleplayer Setup Screen updated

    • Lobby Browser & Custom lobby updated

    • MP Save/Load game support

    • Private game support

    • Steam icons displayed for players

    • Ability to kick players from lobbies

    • Animated background

    • Lots of misc visual polish

  • Misc Art

    • Team colors more prominent on units

    • fixing normals and position of Radioactives extractor

  • In-Game UI

    • New health bar style

    • Firing range rings appearance improvement, and limited to one range ring per group/Battlegroup

    • Selected unit’s weapons are now listed & have corresponding tooltips

    • Minimap

      • Visual pass

      • Basins show as impassible, making navigable area more legible

      • Region icons now show region by their most common resource

      • Power lines displayed by team color

      • minimap changed to show radar return color coded by player

    • Fix arrow button consistency in Empire Tree

    • Scroll bar for Empire Tree

    • Cursors for input modes

    • Research tree UI improvements (more big changes to come)

  • Sound

    • New notification VO

    • updated ship select sfx

    • unit specific move sound hookup

    • updated for T1 weapons sfx

    • builidng construction sound

    • added/updated some ambient tracks

  • Improved crash reporting to help debug community issues

  • Lots of crash fixes

  • Misc

    • Performance optimizations

    • Better handling of Engineer Stop

    • Tighter leash on units in a destination

    • fix for floating Turinium Generator model

    • F1 now correctly cycle selects the player’s engineers

    • AI opponents now have recognizable names

 

The founder’s program is going to end within the next 60 days or so as we are starting to run out of serial numbers.    You can join the Founder’s Program here

When we go into beta, the Founders are going to get coupons to give to friends to get more Ashes keys to help begin building a multiplayer community.

Founder Topic: Resources

Published on Friday, August 21, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes of the Singularity

Greetings!

Welcome to all the new founders! Thank you for joining us!  

Today's discussion has to do with resources.

The current plan is for the game to have these resources:

  1. Metal. For constructing units and buildings. Provided by metal extractors.
  2. Radioactives. For constructing more advanced units and buildings. Provided by radioactive extractors.
  3. Tech. For acquiring new tech. Acquired by the player building Research Matrcies. You can research techs (like logistics) infinitely but they get increasingly expensive.
  4. Logistics. Increases the number of units you can have. Provided by researching tech (the logistics array is going to go away).
  5. Power. Determines how many buildings you can have. Provided by power generators in regions you capture.
  6. Noble Gases. Required by global abilities to be used. Provided by either (a) Resources on the map or ( Constructing a building that provides it (debating)
  7. Turinium. For acquiring victory points.
Sins of a Solar Empire had:
  1. Metal
  2. Crystal
  3. Tech Tiers
  4. Logistics
  5. Money
Company of Heroes had:
  1. Ammo
  2. Logistics
  3. Fuel
  4. Victory Points
Supreme Commander had:
  1. Metal
  2. Energy
  3. Unit Cap (fixed)
Starcraft has:
  1. Minerals
  2. Gas
  3. Supply

However, there's an argument to be had that we have too many.  So let me present one of many possible alternatives:

  1. Metal. 
  2. Radioactives.
  3. Logistics
  4. Turinium
  5. Tech

Abilities instead use Radioactives.  Power is simply eliminated.

What are your thoughts on different methods (for those of you who have played).

 

Founders program will end in the near future

Published on Friday, August 21, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

Ashes-Desert3Hi everyone!

Are you a serious RTS player?

Have a high end PC?

Want to shape a next-generation RTS?

Then join us on Ashes of the Singularity’s founder’s program where you’ll not only get access to private builds, private forums but also additional keys to give to friends in the future.

The Founder’s program is going to be ending fairly soon. We have a finite number of keys available and we’re starting to run out.

To join us, go here: http://www.ashesofthesingularity.com/store

Ashes: Extreme Zoom II

Published on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

 

Pre-beta zoom in

Individual unit zoomed in.

 

Pre-beta zoom out

Zoom out.  You can’t easily see it but it’s just to the SW of the Seed (the huge building in the center)

The units of Ashes aren’t instances of each other.  What we mean by that is that every single unit in Ashes is a unique object. We could (if we had the art budget) ensure that every single one of the thousands of different units had slight variations. We don’t mean cosmetics only but we could let a particular unit have a particular weapon or change in their model.  This will have significant benefits in the future.

BTW, the zoom out you see here is the user zoom level.  We may allow further zoom out but at that point it’ll become an abstracted view. 

The next founder’s build is this week!

Ashes: Tentative Schedule

Published on Monday, August 17, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes of the Singularity

Greetings!

Below is not set in stone but designed to give you an idea of what we intend to do.  As some of you have noticed, we're not exactly "rushing". Like many of you, we want to take the time to create a truly massive RTS that is in the spirit of ground breaking games of the past (Total Annihilation for instance).

1Q2015: Mantle / DirectX 12 prototype build. Demonstrate what we can do (read, thousands of units across a world) if we're unleashed. (complete)

2Q2015: Founder's Program Phase I. Experienced RTS players with high end hardware under NDA invited to join. (complete)

3Q2015: Founder's Program Phase II. Benchmark build made available to public, basic single player AI is now in (good enough to provide a reasonable challenge already). Map editor tools provided. Official DirectX 12 build (the map editor won't work on DX 12 yet though).  Founders will get coupons for additional keys to share with their friends to help us build up the community.

4Q2015: Early Access.  At this stage, the game should be pretty far along gameplay wise other than being only 1 faction and art assets still being rough.

After that, it's TBD.

Star Control: Tentative Schedule

Published on Monday, August 17, 2015 By Frogboy In Star Control

This is by no means set in stone.

3Q2015: Internal Prototype completed.  Multiplayer battles, investigating planets. (completed)

4Q2015: Founders Program.  Fans of the original will be able to apply to become a founder.  They will gain access to the vault and private forums where we can discuss what we're doing more openly. NDA required.

1Q2016: Founder's Program Phase II. Founders get an alpha of the game and the tools we have.  The objective will be to help get the modding community going.

After that it is all TBD.

The DirectX 12 benchmark thread.

Published on Monday, August 17, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes of the Singularity

There's been a lot of great articles taking a first look at DirectX 12 performance via the Ashes built in benchmark.

Here are a few:

IGN: http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/08/17/first-look-at-directx-12-benchmark-results?utm_source=IGN&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ign%2Farticles+%28IGN+All+Articles%29

PC World: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2971612/software-games/windows-10s-radical-directx-12-graphics-tech-tested-more-cpu-cores-more-performance.html

Eurogamer: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2015-ashes-of-the-singularity-dx12-benchmark-tested

WCCFTech: http://wccftech.com/ashes-singularity-alpha-dx12-benchmark/ 

Regardless of the video card, DirectX 12 trumps DirectX 11.  The long story short of this is that DirectX 11 serializes commands from a game on the way to the GPU.  DirectX 12 does not.  This means that games that fully utilize multiple cores to talk to the GPU (like Ashes) will see pretty significant gains.

Nvidia mistakenly stated that there is a bug in the Ashes code regarding MSAA.  By Sunday, we had verified that the issue is in their DirectX 12 driver. Unfortunately, this was not before they had told the media that Ashes has a buggy MSAA mode.  More on that issue here.   On top of that, the effect on their numbers is fairly inconsequential.  As the HW vendor's DirectX 12 drivers mature, you will see DirectX 12 performance pull out ahead even further.

As some may recall, it took a long time for DirectX 10 to pull ahead of DirectX 9 in terms of performance. By contrast, DirectX 12 starts substantially ahead of DirectX 11. It's a huge win for PC gamers.  And the next-gen cards from AMD and Nvidia will make that gulf even larger.

If the DirectX 11 vs. DirectX 12 results also seem to make clear: The quality of your drive makes a huge difference.  You really can see this in DirectX 11 results.

Feel free to add links to other benchmark posts.

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