DEV DIARY: Ashes T4s

Published on Friday, January 13, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

NextOfTheQueen

We are currently working on additional units for Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation.  The T4s and more T3s are not units you will run into in the competitive multiplayer games but on the bigger maps, late game, we run into a lot of cases where the existing units just aren't powerful enough to distinguish between one civilization and another.

Below is a list of some of the units we are considering.  Feel free to suggest your names:

Name Level Description
Jinx T1 Fires a shot that slows down a unit. The more hits, the slower the unit goes
Flea T1 Splinters won't target it. Can jump up a level of ground without a ramp
Havok T1 Very fast moving light attack unit
  T2 Protects area from bombardment
  T2 Hides area from radar detection
Helios T3 Flying air Dreadnought
War Hog A3 Slow moving flying air cannon
Theia T3 Giant Mobile Factory
  T3 Greatly enhances other units in fleet
  T4 Very slow moving doomsday machine that will destroy one thing at a time.
  T4 Very slow moving doomsday machine that wipes out vast swaths of cheap units
  T4 Very slow moving doomsday machine that lays siege to a distant target
  A3 Ultimate air superiority fighter
  T4 Very slow moving doomsday machine that protects everything nearby

These units will be released for free for Escalation owners.

DEV DIARY GalCiv III v2.0 preview

Published on Friday, January 13, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

I'm enjoying my time back on Galactic Civilizations.   The team is working on lots of neat things for the upcoming version 2.0 update which is due this month.

Here are a few highlights:

Administrators

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There's a new resource called administrators.  Your capital world provides N of them where N is based on the size of the map.  Building a starbase consumes one.  You can get more by researching government related techs but that means you're not researching weapons or economy techs. 

The practical effect is that it takes a little pressure off the idea that you have to spam out starbases and also gives some advantages to smaller empires who can now choose to use their starbases to improve morale and productivity in their home systems.

 

Better diplomacy

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When I play other games, I tend to cheese.  There have been patches made for games over the years to counter some of my cheese.  There's plenty of diplomacy cheese in GalCiv also and thanks to player feedback, I was able to b-line my way to it.

But it wasn't just cheese that I wanted to improve on.  I wanted the AI to do more trading and less "give me stuff please". So I worked on the diplomatic system to work harder on coming up with trades.  It'll probably be one of the first things players notice.  More AI talk with more interesting trades.

 

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One new system I spent some time on was the concept of redlining. 

When I inevitable have to work on contracts in my "day job" at Stardock/Mohawk/Oxide I do what is called redlining.  That is where I make marks on a proposal as to why I think we should pass on it or cross out things that won't work for us.

One of the first things I did when cheesing GalCiv was to use the old technique of manipulating the aliens to do things that weren't in their best interests.  Now, to be fair, most people don't do this kind of thing but once you do it, it's hard not to do it.

So in response, I implemented a redlining system that you code-geeks might find interesting:

I noticed that the game passes around the trade offer a lot:

VOID IAIOpponent::AppraiseTradeOffer(CDiplomacySystem::ActiveTradeInfo* pTradeOffer, CDiplomacySystem::ActiveTradeInfo* pOtherSideTradeOffer, ObjectID forPlayerID, ObjectID otherPlayerID)

See the pTradeOffer there?  It was the full detail of what was being offered and the AI looks at it in lots and lots of different ways.

So what I did is add a vector of redlines to it.  That is, the AI can be evaluating an offer and say "Hey, this tech is too valuable" or "Those guys are too tough" and add that redline to the trade offer.

Then, when it gets back to you, you see why they rejected it.  And in the process of implementing it, I went ahead and got rid of some of the things I was exploiting like how easy it was to get other people to do your dirty work (you can still do it but you  need to have a lot of persuasive ability or have a much better deal or both).

UI: This will be controversial

I don't expect this next change to be universally loved and I haven't gotten approval yet from the GalCiv III lead designer, Paul Boyer to check this in. 

But anyway, I really really REALLY hate the ship list thing.  That is, when I go to pick a ship to build, it gets filled with tons of auto-generated ship designs.  None of the filter options work for me (i.e. I don't like them).

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So instead, what I did was make it so that when you first load up the game, only your favored ships are shown and the other ones are folded up.  Then I made it so that if you click on the label (like Beam Ships) it'll unfold the other ships.   

Now, the trickier thing I had to do was when designing a ship.  I wanted my ships that I designed to automatically show up in the favored list.  It was annoying to design a ship and then have to go look for it.

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So now, when I design a ship and save it (in this case, I'll call it the Intrepid class).

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Ironically, this proved a lot tougher than you'd think because the ship design screen deals primarily with saving files where as the ship build list actually deals with UI handles (which don't exist when you design a ship since you haven't added that ship to a listbox list yet).

But it's done.

There's a lot of other stuff going into 2.0.  Today I'm working on late game AI stuff.

This free update is due this month.  Stay tuned!

Ashes Dev Diary: But it's on my home machine...

Published on Thursday, January 12, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

So I did a lot of changes on Ashes balance over the holiday and the team was asking for those changes to be checked in.

I said, "Sorry! I forgot to check them in, they're at home..."

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Then suddenly, I realized, I had taken my work machine home to do those changes and brought my work machine back to the office after break.

So I do have them here which means my balance and AI tweaks can go in the upcoming update after all!

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation v2.03 changelog (Released 1/26)

Published on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Ashes of the Singularity

**RELEASED 1/26/17**
 

Balance

  • Eliminator Turret damage increased from 1000 to 2000
  • Starburst Turret damage increased from 80 to 200
  • Artemis logistics cost increased from 6 to 8
  • Thantos sight radius increased from 500m to 800m
  • Athena HP reduced from 2000 to 1200
  • Engineer build time increased from 25 to 26
  • Strategic Bomber cost increased from 120 metal to 480 metal
  • Strategic Bomber cost increased from 800 rads to 1200 rads
  • Drone Hive shield recharge reduced from 2 per sec to 1 per sec
  • Mauler max shield increased to 1200
  • Mauler rad cost increased from 60 to 80 rads
  • Destructor logistics cost increased from 4 to 8
  • Substrate Constructor build time increased from 24s to 26s
  • Punisher radioactive cost increased from 240 to 280 rads
  • Punisher shields increased from 800 to 1200
  • Dominator build time increased from 50 to 60 seconds
  • Barrager turret build time increased from 100 to 120 seconds
  • Artillery turret rad cost increased from 180 to 240
  • Artillery turret build time increased from 120 to 180
  • PHC Refinery HP reduced from 1500 to 800
  • PHC Quantum Relay build time reduced from 70s to 60s
  • Air Eliminator Turret Rad cost increased from 270 to 600 (this is an end game ultimate air defense)
  • Air Eliminator Turret build time increased from 120 to 240
  • Sky Ender Turret build time increased from 80 to 240
  • Sky Ender Turret rad cost increased from 60 to 600 rads (this is an end game ultimate air defense)
  • Increased Caregiver logistics from 3 to 30
  • Harbinger shields increased from 600 to 4000 (designed to be an incredibly resilient air unit)
  • Harbinger rad cost increased from 800 to 1200
  • Caregiver vision increased from 500m to 1000m

Graphics

  • Added unique icons for AA and Mixed Turrets
  • Made the attack-move order preview in strategic view red
  • UI now displays the proper cooldown percentages for "custom" cooldown lengths.

Bugs

  • Fixed a crash with when updating Constructor orders.
  • Athena weapon effects are now properly aligned with its weapons.
  • Smartie missiles now use all of its tubes.
  • Fix issue with "Paranoid Android" achievement that prevented it from being completed reliably
  • Fixed a crash related to selecting a specific unit within a formation
  • Units will no longer stop moving if their destination region is captured before they arrive.
  • Typo fixes

Missions

  • Europa: Give bonus logistics to cover cost of free Dreadnaughts
  • Betelgeuse: Added additional Artemis waves
  • Yorkshire: Fixed a camera related crash
  • Lagoan - adjusted Aviary dialogue

MULTIPLAYER: Escalation Browser

Published on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes of the Singularity

Any of you interested in multiplayer (ranked) you can download and run this:

 

http://draginol.stardock.net/files/EscalationBrowser.zip

 

Basically, you run this and it goes into your system tray.  When there are ranked games available for you in your region, it will notify you.  Then, just load up Ashes and join the multiplayer queue.

Future updates will let you launch and go right into the queue, this is an internal alpha.

Do not distribute this link as it's just a shared OneDrive link.  We'll be updating this as time goes on but it's a super handy tool for those of you interested in MP.

Edit: Link updated again

 

 

DEV Diary: Ashes of the Singularity: December 2016

Published on Sunday, December 18, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

 

Radioactive Extractor

 

In Total Annihilation there’s a map called Caldera’s rim.  It’s a huge naval map with bits of islands in it.  That’s where I want us to eventually get in terms of battlefield flexibility.

Check these screenshot from a mod of Total Annihilation:

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Let’s break things down into bite sized chunks to understand what we have today.

 

We want Ashes to become the ultimate RTS game

There are a lot of things we have to do to get from where we are today to where we want to be. But we’ve already done the hard stuff first. We have the engine.

Step 1: You need the engine

Making an RTS engine is hard.  That’s why until Ashes of the Singularity, it had been many years since someone has made a new one.  And it is non-trivial.

I wrote about this earlier this year for IGN. If you’re interested in the technical breakdown. go here.

Broadly speaking, a next-generation RTS that wants to compete with Ashes will have to develop an engine to do it.  The Nitrous engine.

PC World investigated this claim earlier this year. You can see their results here.  The short version is that having a core neutral GPU engine is very hard to develop and Nitrous is the first and so far only one we know of that has shipped a game that does it (though Frostbite might be there).

So we have the engine.

Step 2: You need the gameplay

The original release of Ashes was an impressive, albeit limited RTS.  With a fraction of the budget of Planetary Annihilation and around 1/17th the budget of Supreme Commander, it’s a tough haul to compete.  But our plan is long-term.  The ugly fact is, the RTS market is small and you can’t spend a huge amount on an RTS up front if it’s new IP.

Escalation was a big step in the right direction for serious RTS players and lets us move the base game into being an introduction to the genre.  But we still need a lot of core RTS features:

  1. Replays
  2. A Solid Modding Suite
  3. Lots of UI customization
  4. Lots of power user interactive features

None of that will come quickly.  Replays is just about done. Steamworks sharing is almost done.  But we’ll talk about the modding in the next section.

Step 3: You need the content

And this is the biggest challenge for us.  Content is expensive and we live in an age where someone can just buy Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance for $5 on a Steam sale which has years of added content.

From here to there

First, we have to decide what the ultimate Ashes RTS needs to have.  No one will agree on this so I’ll just give you what I think it will have and as always, my opinion is subject to change based on persuasive arguments from players and this is all just my opinion obviously:

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(click to enlarge)

First, yes, it’s totally inappropriate for me to even engage in a public comparison like this.

Second, yes, it’s even dumber to argue that competing games are objectively better than your own game.

Third, many of the weaknesses of a given game are either design choices or budget choices.  The relative budgets of each game translate into more green wins.

But I’m still going to do it since I’ve worked closely with the developers of the other games over the years (Stardock was GPG’s publisher, Blizzard’s contracted expansion pack maker for StarCraft: Retribution, and we’re friends with the UberE team).

Let’s break these down into the areas that are on our radar:

Differentiated T3s

As part of a future tech tree update, we will want to let players do a lot of interesting things with the different T3s.  We may eventually change the way T3s upgrade where you don’t pick their upgrade when they level up but rather they get a general bonus with their specific coolness chosen at the macro level as techs.

We also have two new T3s per race in development.  I’d like to see these out in the Spring time.

The new T3s will be available as a free DLC to existing players.

Differentiated T4s

Ashes currently has no T4s.  This will come in the form of Juggernauts with 3 per race.   They’re a very late game unit.

Differentiated T5s

We have none of these in development but think “doomsday weapons”

Multiple Paths to victory

Right now we have two.  But we would also like to have a turtle based victory path as well where they can build something that slowly spreads across the land. 

Interesting secondary terrain

So this would be ocean.

Good modding support

This is where we need to work with modders.

With Sins of a Solar Empire, we have the Galaxy Forge.  For Ashes, we’ll need to create a new Forge tool.  You can see http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/forum/443 to see what Sins modders do and http://www.moddb.com/games/sins-of-a-solar-empire-rebellion/mods to see some of the great Sins mods.

SWRequiem254-ISD_Brightness_Exam-1

Sins: Star Wars

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Sins: Star Trek

So let’s break that down:

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Here are things we have to make:

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Easy way to manage mods in game (we have to mess with the directories on the disk ourselves)

 

image

Some sort of particle editor (we do this by hand and C++ right now)

 

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A tool that converts FBX files into OXModels (we have a special build of the game that converts them for us)

 

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A UI editor (we currently modify this by hand)

 

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Support for Substance Painter (we currently modify our materials by hand)

 

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A way for designers to modify terrain easily (we currently have to edit files by hand)

 

All of this is doable. It will just take time and money. So we have to carefully pick what we do first.

Great single player replayability

Ours is good but not exception.  Here is what I think we need to do:

 

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Current Ascendancy wars

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Future Ascendancy Wars

I think the current Ascendancy Wars button should get renamed to Campaign and Ascendancy Wars call up a map of the galaxy (or at least the Orion sector) with thousands of worlds on it with you versus several AI factions.

Different worlds would give you wealth and you could use that wealth to buy more Quantum Bandwidth that would let you basically set up defenses on worlds so that they are harder to take.  Some worlds would unlock skins and other special goodies that would get added to your account.

Great Multiplayer community

Our community is great (the people). There just aren’t enough of them.

One thing we’re going to do in the next couple weeks is release an external tool that will make it easy to see when the queue is busy and let you chat with people from outside the game.

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External Singularity Community app

That’s the near-term boost we can do.

The longer-term version will require some more thought.

Replays

These are just about done.  We have them internally now though.

Good Economic / Strategic Depth

I think this will require 1 or 2 more resources along with corresponding units along with a tech tree.

Good base building

See above

Interesting technology choices

see above

Long-term replayability overall

That will require a third and 4th race along with additional locomotion units (crawling units, tracked units, etc.).

BTW, gravity channeling units cannot go on water any more than a Star Wars landspeeder could go on water. It would sink.

 

How you can help

The speed in which we can do all of the above is largely based on how many engineers and artists I can assign to it.

Broadly speaking, I’d love to see us hire 2 full time engineers and then assign 2 of our existing full-time artists just to implement the above.

That’s a $40k per month burn rate.  The sales will support this.  However, where we need help is in evangelism.  Making sure people know about this game and how it’s evolving.

Participating on the forums and telling us what you want to see will help us prioritize.

Just your presence in the community helps.  We’re in this for the long-haul (at least until 2022 anyway, then we’ll see where things stand).

 

 

Concept Art

pod3_doodle renders_2_14 PHC_Pod_mk1_DuelAutocannon

All_Posthuman_Units2_greyPaintedAdjusted_Tom Ship_brainstorming_021914_01 Ship_brainstorming_030314_01

DEV DIARY: GalCiv III December 2016

Published on Saturday, December 17, 2016 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Galactic Civilizaions III - Vertical

By now you should have version 1.9 which is easily the biggest update to the game since its original release.

When I joined the GalCiv III team last month, I did a thorough inventory of the code base and decided to focus on 3 things:

1. The AI
2. The Performance
3. The memory use


## Results ##
The result was 1.9. I've seen a lot of feedback on it. Mostly good. There's some complaints that the galaxy sizes are a little smaller. This is true, I did make them a bit smaller but I made the number of stars and planets available much much higher. In response, we are going to restore the absolute largest sized galaxy. I just personally don't like the pacing and didn't think others would care if I made the absolute size smaller if I was giving them more planets to play on. Clearly I was mistaken. It's no sweat to increase the largest sizes.

 

## Whining ##
Some people have contacted us to complain about how much I've been complaining about the game and that I am hurting the game's reputation by complaining.

First, let me say that we are grateful that our fans love the game so much that they want to defend it from me.

Second, Galactic Civilizations has been part of my life for over 20 years. I wrote the OS/2 versions back in the 90s and designed GalCiv I and GalCiv II and wrote their AIs. So I do care very much about GalCiv.

Third, just because "other games" have bad AI doesn't excuse GalCiv III from having bad AI. It was unacceptable and had to be improved -- a lot. On larger maps, I would go as far as to say the AI was just plain broken. It couldn't effectively expand beyond a certain point.

The issue with non-expanding AIs is a scourge on the 4X game development community. It has to do with turn performance. The reason most of these 4X game AIs are terrible is because of perf concerns versus what is considered "good enough".

But we live in an age where people 4+ CPU cores. The AI should be doing your taxes while crushing you. So while the 1.9 AI doesn't do your taxes, it does make a lot of use of your CPU cores.

Those playing the game no doubt noticed the pretty massive perf differences. I didn't optimize anything. I just made the game use your hardware a lot better.

 

## Words and Deeds ##

I thought it pretty important that 1.9 get out before Christmas. Last month I wrote out a litany of complaints about the game. But talk is cheap. I wanted the players to know that we weren't just aware of things we could improve but that we could address them quickly.


## What's next? ##
There is more to do. Some of the memory optimizations resulted in some changes to the way lighting is handled so we need to make some aesthetic changes. Not a big deal but needs to be done.

I want to get the Administration feature in. Just not sure the best way to do it that doesn't require a ton of UI work.

 

## The upcoming expansion ##

The big expansion people have been waiting for is about 75% done now.

It will be handled as a DLC mainly because people threw a fit when we made the Ashes of the Singularity expansion a stand-alone and we don't want to go through that again. So we'll figure out some way to take what is, essentially, a new game and make it DLC.

Broadly speaking:
- Espionage
- Interactive Invasion system with real strategy involved
- New Economy (no more wheels, something much much better - micro managers can micro manage and macro managers can macro and once you see it, you will be mad for no one having come up with this obvious in hindsight system before)
- Civilization Builder (Make whatever civilization you want, assign ship designs, dialog, etc. to them and share them, the AI will use it all).
- Living galaxy (the lifeblood of the galaxy will be visible)
- Tons of other things
- New campaign (of course)
- New tech tree system

Like I said, it's basically a quasi-sequel disguised (and priced) as a DLC. We will be announcing it next month. Suffice to say, we think this expansion will raise the bar on what people will expect in their 4X games (not just space) and some of the features are things that will become expected in 4X I think as they are too obvious not to have them.

That's all for now.

GalCiv III v1.9 continued updates

Published on Monday, December 05, 2016 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

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We have an opt-in of GalCiv III v1.9 already out.  We continue to update and respond to feedback on it.

Here are some changes I made:

  1. Diplomacy tech affect to diplomacy ability increased from 0.5 to 1
  2. InfluenceMinToClaim increased from 0.33 to 8
  3. InfluenceRadius root reduced from 3.25 (^0.325) to square root (^0.5)
  4. Eliminated the Influence Bell Durve target divsor
  5. Influence fall off is increased from -0.3 to –10
  6. Capital Influence per turn increased from 1.5 to 3
  7. Colony Influnece per turn reduced from 2 to 1
  8. Removed the faction ability bonus from the Diplomatic Office
  9. Removed all faction ability bonuses from starbase modules
  10. AI is much MUCH smarter about detecting cultural flipping strategies
  11. AI is much better about detecting fast alliance strategies
  12. Colonies now instantly update when you rush bulid to show the effect of the new building.
  13. Players start with no area of influence for the first turn
  14. Influence now grows more organically over time

There were some exploits (or ones I would use anyway) that I removed.  For instance, if you built enough cultural starbases, you could get an insanely high diplomacy score.  Same was true for early game trading and other diplomacy techs.

I also changed it so that you start out with zilch on-map influence on the first turn. It quickly grows but I wanted to be able to convey to players that influence is not a right but something earned.  If you don’t build stuff to increase your influence, it won’t grow far.

I fixed a pet peeve of mine. When I build something on a planet, I want to see the stats update right then. 

The next thing on my list is the small empire / administrative resource that will control not just how many starbases you have but a lot of other things. I am trying to get that in today.

A sneak peek at Ashes of the Singularity 2017

Published on Sunday, December 04, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

It’s amazing how much Ashes of the Singularity has changed in just a few months.  It was only released back in May and here we are in December as I write this and it’s undergone a lot of changes.

Below I want to outline some of things we have on our plate for 2017:

T4s

Next year we’re going to introduce Juggernauts.  These are T4s

image image image

 

The T4s will be to the T3s what the T3s are the the T2s.  They will be substantially bigger than T3s and move correspondingly slower.  Very few games will see these units show up because they will cost so much.  The PHC and Substrate are scheduled to receive 3 each.

New T3s

We intend to provide 2 more T3s for both the Substrate and the PHC. 

If you look at the current crop of T3s, you can see the gaps already in each faction’s procurement.  The war between the PHC and the Substrate has required each side to learn from the other.

New T1s

The PHC will be receiving the Havok probably in early Winter if all goes well.  The Havok is an expensive, fast, short-ranged but deadly frigate. It is designed for raiding across the map against those who foolish expand too fast without fortifying at all.

The Substrate, by contrast, is scheduled to get the Hypnotist, a T1 that does no damage but instead will stun enemy units for brief amounts of time.

How much?

All of the above will be released as FREE DLC for both players of the base game and Escalation

Expansion 2: Tides of War

The second expansion’s release date is very much dependent on where Star Control: Origins is.  We have a lot of engineers and artists on Star Control right now but if we’re running ahead of schedule we are hoping we can get to Tides of War by end of next Summer (no promises).  Tides of War will be handled as a DLC (i.e. not stand-alone) for Escalation.  The current plan is to introduce 7 naval units per faction along with maps with water on them.

Hints on the third race:

If you played the Escalation campaign, you already know the third race and the fourth race is alluded to.  When will they show up? That is heavily dependent on sales + engineering/art resources being available.  Neither the third or fourth races use gravity channeling.

Stardock Magazine: December 2016 feedback thread

Published on Friday, December 02, 2016 By Brad Wardell In Stardockians

If you don’t already have a subscription to Stardock Magazine, you can join at http://www.stardock.com/subscribe

My Twitter ID is https://twitter.com/draginol

Our Twitch channel is http://www.twitch.tv/stadock (please subscribe there or they will beat me!)

Some screenshots:

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WindowBlinds 10.5

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Stardock Launcher

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Fan shot of Escalation

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Massive AI created fleet thanks to the new AI update.

 

The magazine will be going out by Monday!

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