November Ashes Mega Diary

Published on Thursday, November 03, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

Greetings!
Sorry I haven't been as active lately. It's been Ashes of the Singularity 24/7 here at Stardock.

image

 

So let's do this:

## Escalation ##
We had to push the release date of Escalation from November 3 to November 10. This is my fault as I just wasn't comfortable with the balance in the campaign. It was a bit too hard on the default setting and we needed to adjust it.


Obviously, you can change the difficulty level (side note: In hindsight, it's pretty insane that the original game shipped without a campaign difficulty slider) but the default does matter a lot.

Escalation also has added more units to the mix to the point that our review guide is a bit out of date.

For example, the Charon cruiser is awesome. Any army it is apart of is able to teleport reinforcements to it instantly. But it will probably have a lot of threads about it because there's a unit that is very tough to balance. On a huge map with 20 factories going, a Charon is a roving nightmare unless you kill it quickly. So it has to be handled very carefully.

Back when I was a Total Annihilation nut playing in the PGL, I used all kinds of cheese tactics like com napping, jamming a flash into other people's factories (the destroyed hulk would block units from leaving the factory), giving metal generators (consume energy to give metal) and then gifting them to my opponent so that I could assassinate my opponent's commander without worrying about his Dgun. I'm not proud.

I bring up the above because as I play and balance Escalation, it's an endless challenge to find that right balance between what is fun and what is exploitable. Escalation includes a number of really interesting new units that are likely to create some new ways of playing the game that we can't imagine yet. So we'll have to pay very close attention to that.

## Flocking ##
Some of the negative Steam reviews talk about path finding problems in Ashes. But the problem they are experiencing isn't path finding, it's flocking. The units know how to get where they're going just fine. The challenge is what to do when you have hundreds of them trying to get past each other in the most efficient way possible. That requires a really sophisticated flocking algorithm and it's something we've been spending a lot of time on these past couple of months as it is a non-trivial programmatic challenge.

We think we have a suitable solution that should be ready to be made public next week. There are opt-ins that are starting to get pushed out that will test this and hopefully will make positioning armies much more enjoyable.

## Tournament Edition ##
Early next year we are going to create a Tournament Edition of the game. This version will initially be only available to Ashes players to share with 4 friends for free. Ashes of the Singularity: Tournament will be a multiplayer only version of the game to help encourage a bigger multiplayer community.

We still expect 90% of the player base to play the game exclusively single player but we do want to make sure there is a really strong multiplayer community as well.

## Vulkan ##
We have this most of the way completed and have test apps of it ready. The remaining issue is HLSL to Vulkan. One of our partners is working on an HLSL shader converter. Once we have that, we should be able to release a Vulkan version soon after.
Once there's a Vulkan version, we can take a look at SteamOS (Linux) support.

## Roadmap for Escalation vs. Ashes ##
It is important to remember that for us, there is ONLY Ashes of the Singularity. Escalation is an expansion to Ashes of the Singularity. When we are working on Escalation, we are also working on Ashes.


image

Ashes of the Singularity user interface

vs.

image

Escalation UI

 

Going forward, we will be differentiating Ashes and Escalation more distinctly and some of that means that certain elements of Escalation will come into the base game or be made available as DLC.

For example, here are some DLCs we are thinking of making available to Ashes players in the future that come with Escalation:

1. Crystaline worlds
2. Volcanic worlds
3. Maps with more players on them

There are also features that are probably going to back into Ashes (for free) that will debut in Escalation such as:

1. The UI update
2. The Substrate economy change
3. Upgrading the Smarty to a Barrager
4. Upgrading a Annihilator to a Deadly Annihilator
5. Adding a low level anti-air defense for the PHC and Substrate that upgrades to a better one.

But over time, you will see the distinction between the two grow.

## Philosphy on RTS game design ##
As some of our Founders can tell you, the design for Ashes of the Singularity was NOT to be like Supreme Commander. I once even posted on our forums that if you were hoping that Ashes would replace SupCom that you would be very disappointed.

So for example, I opposed, in Ashes, to have things like strategic zoom or more than 15 units per faction or lots of defensive buildings. I still am not sure having upgradeable buildings in the base game is a good idea but I feel like I've promised that to the community.

But why? The answer is that Ashes of the Singularity, at its heart, is supposed to be a next-generation RTS to introduce people to the RTS genre.

I read people saying that people should just buy "Supreme Commander: FA" or some other classic RTS. I'm obviously a big fan of Total Annihilation, SupCom, FAF, etc. but are you sure that's the game you really want to use to introduce someone to the genre?

The fact is, a lot of these great games do not work well (or at all) on modern hardware. The mouse cursor might not work or they crash if you're running at too high a resolution or they are no longer compatible with certain video cards and so on.

## Where Ashes will go and where Escalation will go ##
At a recent LAN party for core PC gamers who were NOT RTS players, I had to pick a game to introduce the RTS to them and that game was Company of Heroes. Not CoH 2 (or Ashes) but the original Company of Heroes (this is why marketing hates when I post, I'm recommending Company of Heroes as the best intro RTS game on the market <g>).

The only reason I didn't push Ashes was the hardware requirements. The 2GB video memory requirement was too much for a couple of them. If we could fix memory requirement that then Ashes would be a no-brainer. Alternatively, we can just wait until 2GB video cards are the norm.

If you take a fresh look at Ashes of the Singularity, not as a veteran RTS player but as someone looking to recommend an RTS to someone interested in the genre you'll (hopefully) note these things:

  1. It's pretty bullet proof. You install it on a new gaming PC and it just works.
  2. The game mechanics are straight forward. You capture regions and get their resources. You can then build up those regions and get more resources which lets you build more stuff.
  3. There is some action in the first few minutes (In TA or SupCom, it can be several minutes before you even get to see any boom boom boom).
  4. It's visually gorgeous (on a modern PC anyway).
  5. Losing isn't particularly frustrating. Losing due to a Turnium build up is not generally anger producing. Having someone finally beat you back to your base can actually be fun. By contrast, losing because someone nuked your commander or did a Reaper rush into your base or put barbed wire all over the map or having your entire army melt because you couldn't find your little unit with the right counter to activate its special EMP power and select the enemy unit that would be casting the melt army spell can be extremely frustrating to a new player.

That isn't to say Ashes is perfect. We should have had a mobile orbital nullifier unit in the game when it shipped. We didn't think of it at the time. But we will add that. But overall, Ashes is a really really good introduction to the genre.


By contrast...

Escalation is designed with RTS veterans in mind. We listened to the feedback and realized that Ashes couldn't be a one-size-fits all game.

I spend a lot of time reading RTS communities and the Ashes one is the best i've been apart of. You guys are amazing and your feedback has been extremely helpful. But we couldn't put those ideas and features into Ashes, the base game, even as DLC at any price because at that point, it's not Ashes of the Singularity anymore, it's a hard-core RTS game.

That's where Escalation came in. With Escalation, I am comfortable having strategic zoom (and in fact, it's layered strategic zoom like we did in Sins of a Solar Empire). I'm okay with having a lot more units and defenses.

Esc_SS2

Strategic Zoom in Escalation

That doesn't mean Ashes, the base game, won't eventually get naval units and more factions of course. None of our plans have changed with regards to the base game. We just want to be able to have a game that targets ALL PC gamers (Ashes) and a game that focuses on veteran RTS players (Escalation).


## How did Escalation get so much stuff so fast? ##
As the Founders know, our sales projection for Ashes of the Singularity were modest. As I posted in our Founders forum last year, our objective was to sell 50,000 units of Ashes of the Singularity before the end of 2016 (not counting OEM sales).

It's not that we didn't have confidence in our game. It's that the demographics are the demographics. 4 core CPUs + 2GB video memory as a base requirement cuts out most PC gamers. It's just that simple. Not many people can play Ashes of the Singularity.

When it became clear Ashes of the Singularity was going to more than double the projections, we beefed up the team. A lot.

  • Ashes of the Singularity = Oxide Games
  • Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation = Oxide Games + Stardock

 

So once we had a design down for Escalation we had a lot more people available to do stuff.
Anyway, I have more to say but can save it until later. This is already really long. Let me know if you have any questions.


-brad

The Political Machine 2016: Last update before the election

Published on Tuesday, November 01, 2016 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

image

Stardock has released the final update for its political strategy/simulation game, The Political Machine 2016.  The new version adds “Election Integrity” as an issue, updates the Probing HIllary’s emails issue and provides some new random events such as Internet Revelations, Foreign interference, Internal party revolt and more.

The most recent AI vs. AI simulation of Trump vs. Clinton has the Democratic candidate up by 4 points nationally with the top issues including “Securing the Borders”, “Hillary’s Emails”, and “Reducing the Wealth Gap”

The Political Machine 2016 requires a Windows PC with at least Windows Vista or later.  It can be played single player against the AI, multiplayer versus opponents over the Internet or in Sim mode where players can select from dozens of candidates and see how they stack up.  While played as a PC game, the simulation underneath is based on years of polling and demographic data. 

Visit www.politicalmachine.com to learn more or go to its Steam page at http://store.steampowered.com/app/404620.

You can contact Stardock at press@stardock.com.

Object Desktop 2017

Published on Thursday, October 27, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

 

image

My desktop running WindowBlinds, DeskScapes, WindowFX, Fences, Start10 at 5K resolution

image

IconPackager, Tiles and more at 5K resolution

 

Object Desktop is a suite of desktop enhancement utilities designed to allow users to customize their Windows desktop to work however they want it to work.

The core components of it are:

  1. WindowBlinds – customize the Windows GUI
  2. Fences – organize your desktop
  3. IconPackager – customize your icons
  4. DeskScapes – customize your desktop background
  5. WindowFX – customize the UI behaviors

But that line up has changed as Windows has changed over the years as Windows has changed.

When Object Desktop first launched for Windows its 5 core parts were:

  1. WindowBlinds
  2. ControlCenter – virtual desktops
  3. IconPackager
  4. Tab LaunchPad – launching programs

image

Back then, the idea of “skinning” your Windows GUI was radical. 

 

By 2000, we had added a 5th item: DesktopX

image

DesktopX let us objectify the Windows desktop.  It was one of our most popular components.  Unfortunately, the Windows UAC (the security features built into Windows) eventually made DesktopX untenable because, by its very nature, it was designed to integrate executable code into the desktop which is the opposite of what Microsoft wanted to accomplish with its secure desktop initiative.

Windows XP Era

By 2004, Object Desktop had 3 years of Windows XP to be able standardize all its efforts on. This resulted being able to create Theme Manager which let users gain total control of the Windows desktop.

image

image

image

Object Desktop 2004

Windows Vista

Windows Vista was tough on Stardock and Object Desktop.  Microsoft pioneered a number of amazing technologies including Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), XAML, Silverlight and more.  For two years, Stardock put a great deal of effort into creating an Object Desktop Vista.  This included a DesktopX that could import XAML and export sidebar objects, a version of WindowBlinds that would use WPF to create resolution independent windows and a desktop compositor and of course the animated wallpaper program, DeskScapes.

Unfortunately, two things happened.  First, Windows Vista did not replace Windows XP for most people. Second, Microsoft decided to change direction leaving its promising new technologies sidelined. 

Moreover, the new secure desktop, UAC, made it very hard to run DesktopX.

image

Object Desktop 2006

Windows 7

With Windows 7, Microsoft was back on course.   Stardock updated Object Desktop to version 2010. DesktopX was deprecated and in its place was Tweak 7 which gave users the ability to modify various largely hidden settings.

image

Tweak 7

Windows 8…sigh

For Object Desktop to thrive, it needs a single OS target.  This is very important.  Windows 8 split the Windows market.  It made Start8 possible (which became very popular) but it meant that any technology we developed would have to be aware that it might not work on most of our customers machines.

image

Start8

Object Desktop 2013 saw Start8 and Fences become the two stars of Object Desktop.  Neither program, however, was about customizing the look and feel of Windows as much as altering the way people work with Windows.

 

Windows 10

With Windows 10, Microsoft has created an OS that appears to be their new flagship.  It’s still new but it appears that it will be a stable platform for us to focus our Object Desktop development efforts.  This means we can potentially revisit bringing back apps that were broken on certain versions of Windows and get them on Windows 10.

The real question is, in the age of mobile computing, what is the use case of a Windows desktop (or laptop) PC?

 

Object Desktop 2017

Since the release of Object Desktop 2016, Stardock has added two new programs to Object Desktop:

  1. Multiplicity
  2. SpaceMonger

Neither customizes the desktop but rather focuses on what we are calling the Metadesktop.   Multiplicity lets you easily access your other desktops on other machines and SpaceMonger lets you manage your drive space on your desktop and cloud drives.

This represents the start of the next stage of Object Desktop. 

Let’s take a look at the core components now:

WindowBlinds

The hardest part of WindowBlinds development now is high DPI.  Many of the skins were designed when everyone was running much lower resolution.  WindowBlinds 10 nails high-DPI support but not all skins will play well with it.  This will be an ongoing evolution for WindowBlinds 10.

image

WindowBlinds 10

 

DeskScapes

Animated wallpapers are pretty cool. And today, they use trivial amounts of resources.  When DeskScapes first came out, CPU use was a concern for animated desktops. Now, machines are so much faster it’s barely measurable.

image

DeskScapes 10: Animated wallpaper

Fences 3

Stardock released a new generation of Fences this year. 

image

Fences 3

But we have a lot of plans in mind for future versions of Fences.  For example, in the age of cloud storage, imagine being able to create fences to Google Drive folders? Or a Fence of your YouTube subscriptions? The mission of Fences, now that Windows 10 seems to be the standard will evolve to incorporate your world into your desktop experience.  We’re very excited.

 

Tiles

Tiles is a program that doesn’t get enough attention.  The idea behind Tiles is that you have a sidebar with a series of pages on it. Each page can have different things on it depending on what you’re doing. 

image

Tiles

On my desktop I have these pages:

  1. Development page.  I keep Visual Studio and a few other apps related to making software here.
  2. Business page.  This is where I switch over to start working on budgets and contracts
  3. Games page.  This is where I link to the various games
  4. Surf page.  This is just a list of my favortie sites I visit.  It’s how I quickly get to all the forums and such. Just click click click.

 

We are looking to further update Tiles (or possibly rebrand it as its mission has changed since its original release) to address Object Desktop 2017’s mission of integrating your world onto your desktop.

Start10

Is the Windows 10 Start menu better than the Windows 8 thingy? Yes.  Is it good? That’s only something you can decide for yourself.

As someone who deals with a lot of programs, Start10 is probably the first thing I install on a new box with Fences being a close second.

image image

Start10

image

Windows 10 on my relatively new box. Thank goodness I know the weather.

 

Start10’s mission, to keep with our theme, will evolve as Windows 10 stays around longer.   Think about how you use your modern desktop.  You may have an Android device or an iOS device.  Does your Start menu pick up any of this? Most people now have multiple devices. Their desktop is supposed to be a superset device.  That’s where we have to go with Start10 in the future.  Keep the Start menu a simple, fast way to access your things but also give you the ability to quickly access anything on any device.  Google and Apple are already doing this on their devices.  Windows needs to do the same thing.

Multiplicity

Multiplicity is best known as the program that lets you control multiple PCs with a single keyboard and mouse.  The idea is that you might have a desktop and a laptop or maybe a couple other desktop machines that you have local access to and want to be able to combine these machines into a single user experience.

image

Multiplicity is super easy to set up.

More recently, Multiplicity added support for machines that aren’t local.  In this case, it acts more like a KVM switch or a remote desktop solution.  What makes Multplicity differnet from a normal remote desktop solution is that it is focused on fidelity from top to bottom.  For example, you could play a video game via Multiplicity without a problem.

Once again, with Windows 10 becoming our target OS going forward, Multiplicity has a lot of room to grow over the next year. Our goal, again, is to integrate your digital world to your desktop.

The others

This past year we released IconPackager 10, the first major update to IconPackager in some time.  Once again, the reason is that Windows 10 is becoming a viable target for development – i.e. our finite development time isn’t going to be put into targeting something that is going to be thrown out in 2 years.

WindowFX continues to evolve as well.  We haven’t decided whether we will evolve the touch and other features we have in mind into WindowsFX or into a new Object Desktop program.

SpaceMonger is another recent entry into Object Desktop.  With its ability to manage not just your local storage but your cloud, it’s compelling.

image

SpaceMonger will map out Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox use

We want to hear from you!

So how can you get Object Desktop 2017?

Just go to www.objectdesktop.com and there are options to renew your access to it (if you previously had Object Desktop) or get it new.  When you buy it, you access the Object Desktop manager which handles installing the components. 

Comment below with your own thoughts on what you’d like to see.

Escalation: Fact sheet and FAQ

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

The Basics

  • Massive-scale real-time PC strategy game
  • Requires Windows 7, 8, 10 with 2GB video memory, DirectX 11 or DirectX 12, 4 CPU cores.
  • Stand-alone expansion to Ashes of the Singularity. Includes everything from the base game plus Escalation.

 

 

The Specs

image

 

The Screenshots

 Esc_SS1 Esc_SS3 Esc_SS2

The Details

12 new missions further chronicle the story of Ashes of the Singularity:

  • Campaign 1: Memories- See the events of Imminent Crisis from Haalee’s perspective and understand why she gave birth to the Substrate.
  • Campaign 2: Escalation- The PHC struggles to to fight the Substrate threat while internal rebellions threaten to break them apart.

Gameplay

Wage wars with more than a dozen players at once.

Strategic Zoom: Zoom out and the map changes to a new strategic map that shows a holographic display of the entire battlefield.  This will allow you better control of large groups of armies across the map. 

The Substrate use a new economic system that keeps them from wasting resources. They have unlimited storage, so they can gather infinite amounts of Metal and Radioactives for when they need them.

Game Options allow you to configure the world you want to play on. Explore 9 new map option sliders in both multiplayer and single player games. Configure the game you want to play by fighting on worlds without the atmosphere to support aircraft, increasing resource production, granting bonuses to entrenched armies, and more.

New Orbital Abilities

  • Orbital Jam (Substrate / PHC): Protects a large radial area from orbital abilities for a short period of time.
  • Nano-Mesh Armor (Substrate/ PHC): Provides an armor bonus to targeted units.
  • Nano-Transport (Substrate): Reinforcements automatically teleport to the army when they are created.
  • Emergency Turret (PHC): Call down a temporary turret to defend a region.
  • Rush Build (PHC): Doubles rate of production to give you a burst of resources.
  • Serpentine Turret (Substrate): This construct can be placed anywhere you have vision, allowing you to deploy it behind enemy lines or to set a trap for incoming forces.
  • Sapper (PHC): The Sapper can be inserted anywhere you have vision.  It builds small turrets that can harass or entrap enemy forces. 
  • Saboteur (Substrate): The Saboteur can be inserted anywhere you have vision. It specializes in destroying buildings -- use it to target your enemy's defenses or cripple their economy.

New Worlds

  • Crystal Worlds: Explore alien worlds covered in massive crystals.
  • Lava Worlds: Fight battles over volcanic pits on these burning worlds.
  • Huge map size: Even larger maps to conquer.
  • Multi-tier terrain: Get the high ground advantage with more levels available on maps. The terrain might keep you from being able to get to your enemy, or might provide excellent places to bombard your enemy from.
  • Dynamic Weather: Clouds and storm fronts will occasionally travel across the landscapes.

New Structures & Defenses

Buildings can be upgraded into more powerful forms. For example, Smarties can be upgraded into the new Barrager building.

PHC Advanced Sky Factory and Substrate Aviary that build advanced aircraft.

New turrets that allow you to better hold territory, harass enemy lines, and strengthen your defenses: 

  • Barrager (PHC): This upgrade from the Smarty Launcher has armor penetrating rockets that are effective against both air and ground units.
  • Constable (PHC): A cheap anti-air gun useful for a rapid deployment to quickly build up your defensive line or respond to a sneak attack.
  • Eliminator (PHC): The Eliminator takes out enemy aircraft with a single shot. Great against Strategic Bombers and Harbingers. 
  • Oblivion (PHC): This upgrade to the Artillery Post fires a single depleted uranium round whose kinetic energy is absolutely devastating to single targets. 
  • Odin Artillery (PHC): A long range gun with AOE rounds, useful for shelling groups of enemies from afar. 
  • Exterminator (Substrate): This expensive weapon is great for attacking both air and ground units.
  • Starburst(Substrate): A flak cannon that sends out a pulse of energy above it to damage groups of enemy aircraft. 
  • Disruptor Cannon(Substrate): This nasty cannon will absolutely melt incoming swarms of frigates.
  • Deadly Annihilator(Substrate): This upgrade to the Annihilator shoots endless streams of superheated plasma that does even more damage to both air and ground units.
  • Pulverizer(Substrate): This nasty creature fires a steady, long beam that does massive damage to everything in its path. 
  • Serpentine (Substrate): This construct can be placed anywhere you have vision, allowing you to deploy it behind enemy lines or to set a trap for incoming forces.
  • Sky Ender(Substrate): An expensive anti-air defense cannon that is great at taking down squadrons of enemy aircraft. 

 

Units

  • Hera (PHC): A giant tank sporting heavy armor and a really powerful gun. Useful for holding a defensive line against waves of enemies. 
  • Instigator (PHC): A fast unit that can harass and punish enemies that have spread out too quickly. 
  • Marauder (PHC): A large hovering gunship used to destroy enemy cruisers. 
  • Strategic Bomber (PHC): Send this bomber in to destroy your enemy's buildings with a single large explosion. 
  • Charon (PHC): Allows reinforcements to instantly teleport to whatever army it is part of.
  • Mobile Nullifier (PHC and Substrate): Late game unit that prevents enemy orbitals from acting on the army it is part of.
  • Caregiver (Substrate):  This unit boosts multiplies an army's strength by recharging its defenses.
  • Harbinger (Substrate): A flying unit specially designed to blow up your enemy's buildings.
  • Harvester (Substrate): A small unit that increases the amount of resources gathered, boosting your economy. 
  • Masochist (Substrate): Becomes more deadly the more it has been damaged. The perfect spoiler weapon. 
  • Rampager (Substrate): An evil looking thing that is great for destroy large numbers of small units. 

 

 

FAQ

Q: Why is Escalation a stand-alone expansion? Does this mean you’re abandoning Ashes of the Singularity?

No.  We definitely did not intend to create confusion by having two different purchase options.  What we want to do is have an entry-level way to get into Ashes of the Singularity where we could keep the gameplay close to its core vision: an approachable RTS for newcomers to the genre as well as veterans, and then have Escalation be for power users.

Right now, we sell both Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity ($19.99) and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion ($39.99) with the same idea in mind.  When it came time to do Escalation, it didn’t occur to us to release it any other way.

Q: So will the base game continue to receive updates?

Absolutely.  We will be updating Ashes for years to come both in terms of new DLC and content for those who prefer its more streamlined game play. We will also evolve Escalation to be more sophisticated.

Q: Was it always your plan to have Escalation and Ashes take on different roles?

No.  When we released Ashes of the Singularity, the comparisons with Supreme Commander brought in a lot of Supreme Commander fans as well as RTS gamers who wanted to see Ashes of the Singularity have more depth in terms of units and strategic management.  As our beta testers can attest, we strongly resisted this as we did not want Ashes of the Singularity to become a hard-core only game.  But, the fan advocacy for depth became irresistible and Escalation was born.

Q: Were you surprised at how successful Ashes of the Singularity has been?

Very.  Technically speaking, only a minority of PC gamers can even play Ashes of the Singularity.   Only a really small percentage of PC gamers who play strategy games have the hardware that Ashes requires.  As we would regularly remind our founders during the beta, Ashes had a very small budget (1/9th of Supreme Commander not counting Forged Alliance).

The original projected sales goal for Ashes was 50,000 units in its first year from release when we budgeted it.  That would have covered the core game development costs which would in turn allow us, over a period of years, to roll out new content to the game (naval units, more races, etc.).

Selling 100,000 units by the 6-month point (not counting the hundreds of thousands of OEM buyers via video cards), combined with the overwhelming demand that we flesh out the game in terms of depth, led us to increase the team size dramatically after release.

This may come as a shock, but the base game had only 4 developers and 2 artists (along with some contract modelers).

Remember, when we started this project, there was no DirectX 12, no Mantle, no Vulkan.  So we had to plan on a game that would only run on DirectX 11 for people with the absolute extreme of hardware requirements.  Obviously, if we knew there was going to be a DirectX 12 and a Vulkan, we would have had a bigger budget.

For Escalation, there are now 6 developers and 8 artists.  Still a relatively small team, but that is why Escalation has so much more in it so quickly.

Q: What about the people who bought Ashes of the Singularity for $49.99 when it first released?

We are going to give early adopters of Ashes of the Singularity a “season pass” to Escalation DLC that will last until the end of 2017.  That is, all new DLC created for Escalation they get for free (provided they register with us, as we need to know when they got the game in order to give them the DLC).

The Patron and The Patriot DLC

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Offworld Dev Journals

otc_thepandp_page-background

Greetings!

We’re releasing the biggest DLC for Offworld Trading Company yet today.  It adds a lot of new content and is, btw, only $4.99.


The Campaign

The Patron and the Patriot is a DLC pack focused on enhancing the single player campaign mode within Offworld Trading Company.

The campaign mode that shipped with the base game operates like a competitive tournament that lasts for seven games. There are nine characters to play, each with their own set of perks. While playing games, your character earns new perks through victory bonuses, events, and via accumulating income that can be spent on perks of your choice. Your strategy applies not just to each individual game, but to your character's perk progression, which lets you tailor your strengths and weaknesses for use in later games to be played. Elimination rounds begin at game three, removing the weakest competitor from the tournament each week, until only four remain to compete in the finale, where stock buyouts eliminate the rest, leaving a sole survivor with a monopoly over all of Mars.

Upon this foundation, we have crafted enhancements designed to improve Breadth, Depth, and Immersion for campaign players who purchase The Patron and the Patriot.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_10Day_Campaign (1)

FEATURES

  • Colony Class - Each colony now specializes in one area of the economy, altering local market conditions in a variety of ways.
  • Campaign Length - The campaign tournament can now last for 4, 7, or 10 games. Each length comes with its own balance tweaks and gameplay subtleties.
  • Wholesale Orders game mode - Not all colonies want you to build habitats and work modules for them. Now some instead want your company to supply a variety of wholesale goods.
  • Two new Characters - New CEOs with new gameplay perks.
  • Story-Driven Campaigns - Six interactive short stories about life on Mars, available to experience through playing the new characters on each different length of campaign.
  • New Staffing Perks & New Achievements

 

Breadth

New Colony Classes

Early colonies on Mars had to be self-sufficient. They consisted only of generic habitat modules, which consume life support resources (and drive up prices on these resources), and workplace modules, which consume certain industrial resources.

Rapid colonization of the planet opens up opportunities for colonies to specialize, creating an interdependent web of trading partners amid a more sophisticated Martian economy. Now in addition to generic Habitat and Workplace modules, many colonies have customized module types, which consume different resources than the default types (driving up prices on a different set of commodities) and even in some cases producing resources (which actually drives prices down on those commodities). Custom module types require different materials for construction, which affects games where the colony desires companies to build more domes for them.

We have added 17 classes of colonies in The Patron and the Patriot. These now provide a wide field of localized market conditions, which you as player must anticipate and manage in order to succeed. There are also gameplay tweaks associated with each colony class, including local price controls on commodities produced by the colony and special rules unique to each class that may affect cost or availability of gameplay options.

 

Campaign Length

Changing the number of games played in the tournament affects perk progression. Since perks are the skeleton that gives shape to the body of a campaign, the new campaign lengths offer new opportunities for player strategy.

The shorter campaign length provides fewer opportunities to gain perks before the finale, so starting capital is increased. Players (and their AI opponents!) have the opportunity to make multiple staffing hires before the first game is played, allowing for a "jump right in" strategic experience that pays dividends quickly. With fewer elimination rounds, the number of opponents is reduced and opponents per game is reduced as well. There are fewer levels from which to choose, though, which may require you to play some more difficult scenarios.

The longer campaign length grants more opportunities for progression, but starts with a lot less cash to spend on perks and does not let you make permanent hires for the first couple of weeks. You must decide whether to spend heavily on temporary perks in the early going or try to save toward bigger purchases later. Any income earned from the early games will carry on longer, so this is no easy choice to make. Every game in the early going will pit you against three of your rivals, making for busier and more difficult games. There is more opportunity to recover from a bad game, though, and still press on toward ultimate victory. Near the end of the tournament, you must face more formidable opponents, who themselves have accumulated a high amount of perk progression and pose more threat to you.

 

Adding Depth

Game Modes: Colony Build vs Wholesale Orders

In Colony Build mode, you know what you're up against: need lots of Aluminum to build habitat domes and at least one construction resource for building workplace modules. In The Patron and the Patriot, colony class may affect which modules are available to construct, which can vary the resources you will need to provide. (Penal colonies, for instance, use Carbon instead of Aluminum for constructing their Prison modules.) So even for Colony Build mode, your company will need to become more versatile.

Wholesale Orders mode offers a much more dynamic challenge. The colony may request any of the commodity types. You will need to invest less cash than it takes to construct domes in Colony Build mode, but your material investments will be greater. The size of the orders grows throughout the game, requiring an ever-steeper resource cost. Some order types may be fixed, where the colony will want ever-larger orders for the same commodity. Other orders may be dynamic, where a randomly-chosen resource type will be needed for each successive order filled. Even the number of columns that will be fixed or dynamic changes from one game to the next, requiring your strategy to adapt to the individual market conditions of each game played.

Greater depth of strategy will be needed to succeed in this new, more dynamic Martian economy.

New Characters

In his youth, Doctor Mikhail Nekrasov discovered transparent aluminum, the first clear metal suitable for use in construction. Today he is rich beyond measure, but Mikhail is slowly losing his battle with ALS. A crime committed against him lured him to Mars. Fate may be what keeps him there.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_Character_ColonyOrders (1)

Dr. Nekrasov holds the patent for Transparent Aluminum, which permits him to substitute aluminum for glass in construction. As an indie developer, he can construct any HQ type. His company's mining, steel-making, and geothermal capabilities are unmatched, but his specializations leave weakness in other areas.

Manuel Valencia was the brightest star in a young group of investors helping to rebuild the global economy. His firm, Icarus Investments, was responsible for establishing Santiago as the financial center of South America. A failed gamble on his biggest trade cost Icarus a quarter of its assets. Clients fled and the firm was forced to shut its doors. Seeking a fresh start, Manuel has accepted an offer from Paulo Rubini to join Seneca and come to Mars.

Manny maintains good relations with many of his former clients. Some are willing to bet on his rise from the ashes, allowing him to maintain a strong bond rating and pay only half the cost (compared to others) for financing his short term debts. Manny has set up a Core Sampling division, which provides him one Core Sample perk per level of his local Headquarters. He has no staffing specializations, instead maintaining a versatile footing, from which he relies on his Core Samples to turn the resource tide in his favor at each colony.

 

Increasing Immersion

Story-Driven Campaigns

Six short stories have been written about life on Mars during the era of colonial expansion and economic diversification. The new colony class environment serves as the backdrop for these stories, while a fleet of colony ships sent from Earth to Mars during the optimum travel window (when the planets are near each other) explains why there will be a flurry of intense competition over the new colonies, which will culminate at a final game played at the last colony founded by the fleet.

The stories are driven in part by the player's choices. Interactivity is indirect: you will not face forks in the road where you choose the direct outcome of a story. Instead, the subplots and details of each story will mold themselves around the games that you play: your level selections, opponents faced, staffing perks, and victory or defeat in your games. You will journey with your character through playing the games, immersing yourself in life on Mars as you apply your strategies and struggle to obtain victory.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_Pirates (1)

Play the new CEOs to experience the stories. Each CEO has one story tied to each of the three campaign lengths, so you will need to win each campaign length twice (once for each new CEO) to experience all six stories to completion.

Replays of a story may yield new details not previously experienced, as different subplots or sections of background information are triggered by different player choices and game outcomes.

 

About the Designer

Bob Thomas, designer of The Patron and the Patriot, worked previously with lead designer Soren Johnson on Sid Meier's Civilization IV and other projects. Bob specializes in matters of game balance and replayability and has a background in writing. This talent set was well matched to the task of enhancing the campaign experience for our players.

 

The home page is www.offworldgame.com.  The Offworld Trading Co. Steam page is: http://store.steampowered.com/app/271240/.

 

Let us know what you think.

DEV Diary: Some Escalation highlights

Published on Friday, October 21, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

For this journal, I’m going to, in story form, give you a guided tour of Escalation.

 

Background..

Escalation is the first expansion pack to Stardock’s massive-scale RTS, Ashes of the Singularity.  It is sold as a stand-alone expansion with its pricing determined based on whether you already have Ashes of the Singularity or not.  To learn more, visit www.ashesofthesingularity.com.

 

The year is 2180…

The human race is at an inflection point.  The technological singularity has given humans capabilities that a person form the 21st century could scarcely imagine.  A handful of humans have made the transition to becoming “Post-Humans”, beings whose very consciousness is spread across multiple worlds thanks to the breakthrough technology of “Quantum Streaming” which allows for instant communication across great distances.

The largest group of these Post-Humans have formed a group called the Post-Human Coalition, PHC.  Its goal is to map out suitable worlds to expand to ensure that no individual Post-Human comes to dominate the rest.  Unfortunately, some of the Post-Humans have taken a different path. These renegades, still ostensibly PHC members, look to claim worlds for themselves. They fight each other and they fight the PHC itself. 

Into this turmoil has come a new enemy: The Substrate. The strong AI that has evolved along side the Post-Humans has determined that the PHC and its members must be annihilated before their recklessness jeopardizes all.

The planet, Elysium

Escalation doubles the number of playable slots from 6 to 12.  Today on the planet Elysium, 12 factions will battle against each other for control of the world.  Elysium is a crystaline world, a planet class new to Escalation.

 

image

Setting up with 12 players.

 

image

Crystaline worlds have a violet hue to them.

 

 

image

Escalation adds some new very low-tier defenses that can be upgraded.

 

 

image

and further out

image

and further

Meanwhile on Pollux

 

image

The new PHC Instigator is constructed at the Nexus. It is expensive but is quite effective at taking lightly defended regions.

 

image

late game, it remains easy to manage vast forces across the world thanks to the strategic zoom.

 

image

From up here it seems peaceful. Sure, I’m red but having an enemy army in my base is so less scary from space. Winking smile

 

 

 

Deneb Revisited

image

Weather

 

More to come..

685 pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next