Ashes Dev Update: October 2016

Published on Friday, September 30, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

Greetings!

Fall is here in the northern hemisphere. Time to migrate to Australia!

Here's what's new…

 

## Version 1.5 ##

I am hoping that version 1.5 will arrive before Halloween. It's going to be tight. Lots of work going on. I'll outline below some of the focus.

 

## UI ##

According to the Steam data, 28% of our players are playing at below 1920x1080 and the text and such looks awful. Unreadable imo. We are updating how the the game is displayed which should, we hope, result in a dramatic improvement to how the text, UI and really the game itself looks.

 

## Balance update ##

The Substrate are going to get a bit more love on the building destruction side. The PHC is going to get a bit of a nerf. We are also looking at porting back some of the work we've done in Escalation for the Substrate economy which should make them a bit different.

 

## Performance ##

Hopefully some of you noticed the significant performance boost in the September update. We are continuing down that path with version 1.5.

 

## Keyboard ##

High on our list is getting WASD keyboard support options in. I don't know if they'll make it into 1.5 or not. But it is coming.

 

## Vulkan ##

This is now working in our internal builds! This might show up in 1.5. AMD is providing a lot of assistance to us in getting Vulkan support so please be sure to give some kudos and credit to AMD for Vulkan in PC gaming. It'll run great on any GPU that supports Vulkan.

 

## Replays ##

This won't happen until after the Escalation expansion. We wanted to get this into 1.5 but it's a pretty big job. But it is coming.

 

## Scenario Creator & Steam Workhop ##

While probably not for 1.5, we are putting the final touches on a GUI Scenario editor. Lucky you guys. I had to make scenarios in a text editor. This will be in a free update that will include Steam Workshop support.

 

## Names Names Names ##

The mobile orbital nullifiers for PHC and Substrate need names. Put your suggestions in the comments.

 

## Reviews ##

We really could use your help on the reviews. We took a pretty big hit when people started down voting Ashes because they thought Escalation was a replacement to Ashes (it's not).

We are talking to Valve as to whether it'll be possible to turn Escalation into DLC so that it eliminates any confusion and we develop a game launcher that lets you pick the base game or Escalation. We prefer being able to use the Steam client as the launcher but given the backlast against expandalones, we're willing to spend the time and budget on writing our own launcher if that makes people happy.

Anyway, if you haven't reviewed the game on Steam, your review will absolutely make a difference.

That's all for now!

-brad

Dev Journal SK: Optimizing a big big world in Sorcerer King: Rivals

Published on Friday, September 30, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

I had the opportunity to get a saved game from a player who was experiencing long turn times.  This was extremely useful because it’s one of those things you “hear” about sometimes but it “never happens on my machine”.

I was able to reproduce it and the results were fascinating.

image

image

A huge part of the cost was recalculating those zones of control.  This is something that has always been in there (going all the way back to Elemental) but over time, it appears to have got more and more expensive as we have added more “stuff” such as the ruffians getting to have their own ZOC.

People sending me their saved games is like giving me gold.

I really enjoy seeing how other people play and it does more than anything to help us make the game better.  I think you’ll be impressed with the improvements we’ve made to Rivals.

I do plan to backport these changes to base Sorcerer King in the future.

Sorcerer King and his Rivals

Published on Monday, September 26, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

SK-ReviewBannerPC gaming, at some point in the past year or two, has changed from expecting expansion packs to be offered as an integrated product to demanding they be released as DLC.  Sorcerer King: Rivals stumbled into this brave new world.

Our story so far:

Last year, we released a fantasy 4X/RPG game called Sorcerer King.  It takes place in our Elemental game universe and is a combination of a 4X strategy game with RPG elements.  It’s a really fun game. In that game, you start with a village in a world that has already been conquered by the title character.  Seeing that the Sorcerer King now wants to become a god, you must raise up an army, gather allies and confront the Sorcerer King at his fortress.  And, like I said, it was fun.

But, it had one big issue: Replayability.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if it were a $15 game but in a $40 game that wasn’t a dedicated RPG, it was a problem.  So over the past year, we thought about what we could do to address that.  The solution came in 3 parts:

  1. We needed to add more races to the game to play as
  2. We needed to to make the neutral factions more relevant
  3. We needed to give the player agency in the game: let them be able to win the game through their civilization

Ultimately, we combined this together into Rivals, an expansion pack. 

SK_Rivals-alwaysnew

Rivals

We’re very happy with how the game has turned out.  There are a number of things on my wish list I’d like to add (in particular, I’d like to make the neutrals into major factions so that they too can try to become gods).  But like all things, it depends on sales.

 

SK-custombattle

Mmm. Dungeons.

The first update

Today we released the first update to the game that fixes some typos and game balance stuff.  I also made a few AI tweaks to make the neutrals more intelligent.   I am hopeful that players will like what we’ve done with Sorcerer King: Rivals though the jury is out on that of course.

Let me know what your thoughts Sorcerer King: Rivals and what you’d like to see next.

Fire and RTS gaming: September 2016

Published on Monday, September 26, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

MS8_DESKTOP

Engineers are terrible at marketing.  We really are. 

If you’re playing Ashes of the Singularity, you may have noticed we updated the game last week. A minor update with some major changes.  Under the covers, Nitrous got a pretty big boost.  But because it doesn’t add features, it didn’t get a lot of attention.  But performance wise, it was the result of months of optimization.

Making the largest scale RTS of all time is a big challenge in 2016.  My friend, Chris Taylor, arguably still holds the record with Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.  Our friends at Uber did something pretty neat with Planetary Annihilation but they had a few things working against them not the least being timing: The audience was on the cusp of changing from single core GPU engines to multi-core.  I would argue that Ashes is just barely at the right time because its hardware requirements have meant that only the very top end PC hardware enthusiasts who just so happen to like RTS games are going to buy Ashes of the Singularity.

The most obvious challenge in the past few years has been the dramatic diminishment of budget.  Supreme Commander 1 had a budget of around $20 million or so.  It’s hard to even fathom that kind of budget today.  2007 was a different world.  THQ could get Supreme Commander onto store shelves and most stores had fewer than 40 SCUs (40 different games).

Do you remember?

Do you remember when you had only a couple dozen choices for buying a game?  That was the world of PC gaming back in 2007.  And so PC games had much larger budgets than we have today.

By contrast, today, a new game has to compete with everything that has come before.  Why should you buy Ashes of the Singularity when you can buy Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance for $14.99? A fully realized game.  Sure, it was released in 2007 but it holds up well.  

Today, we work on smaller budgets.  Much, much smaller budgets.  But what we lack in budget we can make up with perseverance. At least, theoretically.  If people don’t buy the game, for whatever reason, we’d have to assign those developers and artists to a different game (if you haven’t reviewed Ashes please feel free to do so.  But we have the advantage of both professional developers and artists on hand and a state or the art engine and a passion to work on the game.

When I see someone say “You shouldn’t buy this, go play Supreme Commander: FA” I groan a little since, as anyone reading this knows, there will never be another Supreme Commander game. Ever. Whereas, every cent we get we put back into Ashes.  We didn’t have $20 million, we had less than $3 million. And with that, we’ve made something pretty amazing. 

Escalation

So the first expansion pack is due for Ashes.  If I had a time machine, I’d do it as a DLC since people seem to be confused about stand-alone expansions nowadays.  But for us, it’s just an expansion pack to Ashes that we are integrating with the base game for simplicity (i.e. buy X and get the best thing we have).  It’s a pretty big undertaking but we think it will help make Ashes the modern RTS to beat.  It’s just so…good.  We’ll be doing videos soon.

Rambling

Sorry to ramble.  Just a busy Monday night over here in Plymouth Michigan.  Tomorrow, I fly over to Towson Maryland to check out how things are going with Star Control

Ashes of the Singularity: Tournament

Published on Sunday, September 25, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes of the Singularity

Hey guys.

Wanted to get some feedback from you as to whether you think this would be a good idea or not.

After Escalation ships, we are considering creating a multiplayer only edition of Ashes of the Singularity (Tournament).  You wouldn't be able to buy this version.  Instead, everyone who buys either Ashes of the Singularity or Escalation would get 8 keys to give out to people.  Those people could then download the Tournament edition.

They'd only be able to play online (they couldn't host games but they could join custom games as well as join quick match / ranked games.

In doing this, we think we'd be able to build up the MP player base so that we could have more MP options.

However, the risk is that we would be potentially losing out on sales which is what funds continued Ashes development.

What are your thoughts?

Sorcerer King: Rivals Wishlist

Published on Sunday, September 25, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King

This is compiled list of actionable player requests we've gotten from the community.  Feel free to add your own.

 

  1. More types of resources with units that can make use of them
  2. More sophisticated Diplomacy
  3. More Campaigns
  4. New City improvements that use resources (like ones for logistics)
  5. Have a button under the Orb of Power that lets players directly cast the Spell of Ascendancy
  6. Have a repeatable skill that each champion gets when they max out their levels
  7. Create an infirmary where units killed can go to that you can buy to get them back (fully equipped), their equipment goes with them
  8. Expensive building (requires resources) that adds enchantment slots
  9. Option to disable ascendancy victory. Instead, player (or SK) becomes incredibly powerful when this happens
  10. Make the Neutral factions directly compete where they are all trying to ascend.
  11. Improve the tactical UI so that the abilities and items are easier to deal with
  12. Make the shard repair spell available to others as a rare spell they can research
  13. A separate tech tree with buildings that provide knowledge to get access to more powerful things.

Add yours here.

Sorcerer King: Rivals release day!

Published on Thursday, September 22, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

Greetings!

Many years ago I wrote Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 in my dorm room in college. Some of you reading this may have even played it a long long time ago.

Following its success, I always wanted to make a fantasy strategy game. Our first try at it was somewhat of a disaster. We made this amazing, custom, fantasy 4X engine but we couldn't quite get the game right.  That game, of course, was Elemental: War of Magic.  I was so disappointed in it that we gave its sequel and expansion out to our fans for free.

Today, we're releasing a new fantasy 4X.  While it takes place in the world of Elemental, it has a different premise.  In Sorcerer King: Rivals, you can, in addition to the usual explore, expand, exploit and exterminate mechanics, ascend to godhood bit by bit.

When you play the game, if it feels like a mixture of Master of Magic and Populous, that's not a coincidence.  Those are two of my favorite games and I really wanted to capture that spirit as much as I could here with the time we had.  We've also included a bunch of modding tools so that you could, literally, recreate some of your fantasy RPGs.  So while Rivals is a strategy game, the engine supports making RPGs.

I’ve made a gameplay video of me playing it (badly): https://youtu.be/KT7PBDaZrhw

The home page is www.sorcererking.com and you can also get it on Steam and GOG. 

Go to: http://store.steampowered.com/app/496730/ to download.

I will be doing a marathon stream of it today on https://www.twitch.tv/stardock. Come hang out. We can talk about anything from PC gaming to OS/2. It's all good.

I also started a Dev diarty on modding if you're interested: http://forums.sorcererking.com/479737/page/1/

You can always reach me directly on Twitter @draginol

And here are some screenshots of it in action:

SKRivals_KeyartFinal_nologoskrivals_logoSK-Rivals-CraftingSK-Rivals-setupSK_Rivals-4XForeverSK_Rivals-alwaysnewSK_Rivals-deadlySK_Rivals-demigodsSK-custombattleSK-ReviewBanner

 

 --

 

Modding Diary #1: Sorcerer King: Rivals Quests

Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

 

Overview

Since there’s a lot of material to go over, I’ll try to be as succinct as possible.

For Diary #1 we will cover:

  • Directory Structure
  • Quick Links
  • How to cheat
  • Sample Quest: Editing existing
  • Sample Quest: Creating new one
  • Debugging your quest
  • Sharing your Quests

 

Directory Structure

For our purposes, I am going to refer to this directory:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Sorcerer King – Rivals (or its equivalent on your PC) as the GAME directory.

and

C:\Users\Draginol\Documents\My Games\SorcererKingRivals as the USER directory.

 

  • The Quest editor is in GAME
  • All the graphics are kept in GAME\Gfx
  • All the maps are in GAME\data\Maps
  • All the really cool stuff to mess with are in GAME\data\English
  • Quests are stored in GAME\data\English\Core Quests
  • The stuff you create will be in the corresponding sub-directory of USER.

Quick Links

Master Quest Editor manual: https://docs.google.com/document/d/13rh_IQeVEk1o0LM46QW-2OH_71-MAJd9Hq10TUhZIJY/edit?usp=sharing

Technical Quest Editor Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vi_is5ArrtgTm-JGTBP37CcAdqNdsqFArMnxrFoKlgE/edit?usp=sharing

Minor Faction Quest Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Iz6crsohppUaRZJGjyw9wi_NMLDplnavCJ8aXT7wd2I/edit?usp=sharing

Dungeon Master stuff: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EDVOytcyPkCqJohKMCxI6wifaAjgfd-6XYGbUiCo1lw/edit?usp=sharing

Dungeon Master Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19DU-I6x_IT-mzQIYJgX7715Ygsapaq0QNOzryrEZK_0/edit?usp=sharing

Rivals Tech Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sp3T17GtTAxbNxvOrGgy_yDc_GIPO1fHmkMHiF8Ub1Q/edit?usp=sharing

 

How to cheat

From team. Go to Library > Sorcerer King:Rivals and right click. Choose Properties > General > Launch Options.

You'll see "These options are for Advanced Users only." (LIKE US!)

Enter "-cheat"

These are commands I find useful for finding and triggering quests:

CTL + U reveal entire map

CTL + T teleport selected unit to wherever cursor is.

CTL + M should give you 1000 mana

CTL + E should unlock all spells

CTL + C should copy any unit

Sample Quest: Looking at an existing one

Load up the Quest Editor:

image

Loaded

To see what a finished quest looks like do this:

File->Open Quest

go to the GAME\data\english\Core Quests directory and load up one of the quests in there.

 

image

A loaded quest

Click on the Edit Quest Options button and you will see this:

image

Here are the key things to understand:

  1. You don’t need to enter a description
  2. You should fill in the author info though if you plan to share it.
  3. Give it a unique name (like, put your name as part of the internal name)
  4. Trigger Type of QuestLocation means it’s an actual place on the map and not, say, a random event
  5. Trigger Origin of EventLocation means that whatever is going to happen, it’s going to happen there.
  6. Quest Class of of MInor means finishing this quest doesn’t end the game. Thus if you were making an RPG, you’d have one or more of your quests be a major quest to finish the game.
  7. Is Starting Point checked means that it can be placed near your starting location.
  8. Spawn Rating of 1 means it’s relatively easy.
  9. Pref Quest Location refers to the tile design being used. We recommend you use what’s there as it is some work to create new ones.
  10. Conversation Music refers to the MP3 or WAV file that is going to be played.

 

Now, go back to Objective #0.

Objectives are the state machine of a quest.  So in the example here, I can kidnap someone (which isn’t very nice) or help them.

IF I kidnap them THEN I get a Popup where we have our snarky text AND we provide some rewards (pressing the Reward button shows what those rewards are)

image

The rewards dialog

So in this case, I get 3 things:

  1. The guy I kidnapped
  2. A resource: DoomsdayCounter of 5 (which means we’re giving the SK 5 ascension points)
  3. A resource: _Intimidating of 1 which the Dungeon Master uses to reward/punish players later in the game.

If you want to know where we have resources you can go to: GAME\data\English\CoreResources.xml

If you want to add more, you don’t have to put them in this file.  As long as they are in a file with <ResourceTypes> at the start and end.  

Getting back to the quest at hand. If you choose Help them out then the game will Goto Objective 1 AND launch a battle AND pop up a dialog with snarky dialog.

Objective 1 looks at the victory conditions. If you win then you go to objective 2 which ends the quest.

If you click on the Battle button you get this:

image

You can name your battle whatever you want.  It’s basically a variable that more complex quests can refer to later on in the game (“Hey, you won battle AV14 back 35 turns ago!”)

image

If you click on a unit you can see the type of unit is it. 

To see all the units in the game you can open GAME\dat\English\CoreUnits.xml  We also have an Excel spreadsheet SK Editor in the GAME directory that has lots of tabs that present these.

Mind you, you can create your own units. They don’t have to be in this particular file.

Similarly, there is a CoreItems.xml and a CoreWeapons.xml and so on.  You can explore these files and get pretty creative on what happens during a quest.  But for today, we’ll keep it simple.

 

Sample Quest: A new quest

This time, I’m going to create a new quest.

 

Quest Options

  1. Name your file (give it a unique name so some other modder’s quest doesn’t overwrite it. I’m going to call mine DraginolSample
  2. Name your quest (in my example, a disgusting hut)
  3. Click on Edit Quest Options.
  4. Enter your name as the author
  5. Give it a unique internal name. (like Draginol_SampleQuest_09212016)
  6. Give it an image. It’ll look for any file in the gfx directory (either in GAME or USER). I’ll use QuestPainting_Inn.png for my sample.
  7. Trigger Type: Add QuestLocation for this exmaple
  8. Trigger Origin: EventLocation
  9. SpawnRating (1=easy 4=hard) I’ll do 1.
  10. What about your preferred quest location? You can open up the GAME\data\English\CoreQuestLocations.xml file to get a list of them. I’ll use QuestLoc_Hut

This is what I have so far:

image

 

First Objective

Click the Add Objective button. Then click on the objective.

image

  1. Write some text for the opening dialog.
  2. Click Add Choice Option. If you tell it to goto Objective –1 that means the quest is over.
  3. Click and add a second choice option.  Click on the goto Objective and you can go to a tab to specify the text for the new objective (and it’ll automatically create the objective target).

Second objective

  1. Enter in the text the player will see from choosing this choice.
  2. Click Reward.
  3. Click Add Treasure.
  4. Choose Give Item
  5. Choose an item to give him (I opened up CoreItems.xml in notepad and searched for scroll and found Scroll_BoostHP
  6. Choose amount 1 (1 scroll).
  7. Click update treasure
  8. Click Save.
  9. Then go to file->save

That’s it.

Now it’s time to test it.

Testing your Quest

This is a very important part before sharing your creation with others.  Once you get into making quests it gets much easier. But the first time does require a little effort:

  1. Load up Sorcerer King: Rivals
  2. Go to the Workshop icon in the bottom left
  3. Load up the map editor
  4. Hit the Create button
  5. Find where it placed your starting location (the S on the map)
  6. Click on the little arrow next to the red shard button on the left. Click on the quests button.  You should get a list.  When I test, I often will move the Core Quests directory out of the GAME directory entirely just to make it easier for me to find the one I did.
  7. Select your quest and then RIGHT click near your starting location.
  8. Save your map
  9. Close Sorcerer King: Rivals (so that it will reload all the data)
  10. Load the game, start a new game and choose the map you just made.

 

image

Finding your starting location

image

Placing my quest near my starting location.

image

My question in action

 

If for some reason the game doesn’t place you where you thought, use those cheat keys.  Ctrl-u unhides and Ctrl-t can teleport your unit to the location.

 

Uploading your Quest

Now you’re ready to share your quest.

  1. Go to the Workshop again (little icon in the bottom left).
  2. ChooCse upload quest
  3. Choose upload quest

And you’re done.

We do recommend you edit the description and such on Steam.

image

My Quest on Steam

Have fun!

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