I haven’t done one of these in a while but holy cow so many cool things going on with so many things being announced so recently that I think we owe it to you guys to share what’s happening here.
So as some of you know, Stardock’s an “indie” in the sense that it’s still owned and run by its founder (me). So there is no question whatsoever who I am responsible to: My coworkers and you. I don’t have stock holders to please and that lets us do lots of new and interesting stuff. So let’s talk about it.
2 weeks ago we announced Oxide Games (www.oxidegames.com). Oxide is an independent studio that is dedicated to making cool and interesting technology and games. It has a bunch of things it’s already working on but the one that has gotten the most attention is the Nitrous 3D engine. It is the first (as far as I know) engine to use SWARM (Simultaneous Work and Rendering Model) or anything similar. What SWARM means is that graphics are processed completely concurrently with your cores. The more cores you have, the faster it runs. The engine has no concept of a “main” thread or a “graphics” thread or what have you.
From a developer’s perspective, it has the ease of writing a “single threaded” game while the engine just splits everything up between the various CPU cores. SWARM matters because the much of the eventual improvement in visual fidelity in PC and the new-gen consoles will come down to making use of all those cores and the Nitrous engine makes full use of them.
Another piece of news that’s actually a pretty big deal for PC gamers (and those who own any consoles that happen to be powered by AMD – like Xbox One and PS4) is Mantle. This is AMD’s competitor to DirectX. There’s no sugar coating it. Mantle is as much an alternative to DirectX as OpenGL is. And I can tell you, it’s pretty amazing and Oxide is supporting it (see AMD’s press release).
What all this will mean for games is that you will be able to have games with the visual fidelity of movies. Let me be specific: Remember the beginning of Revenge of the Sith with that massive space battle? We can do that now. Same level of visual quality at >30fps. Or remember the battles in Lord of the Rings? Same thing. The hardware and with Nitrous, the software has reached the point where those CGI scenes can be done in real-time. There are games in development right now that will deliver this.
One interesting side effect will be - where will gaming go after this? If the hardware and software has reached a point where we’ll start having real-time, photo-realistic scenes with thousands of things at once and uncanny valley is due only to talent limitations, what happens next?
With the recently launched Mobile unit (HEY! Go get Deadman’s Draw, it’s awesome!) and with the long-stated goal of having 2 game development teams internally running at the same time, we’re building out our lower floor. Here are some pictures:
This is the café we’re putting in where people will be able to eat launch, play video games, hang out.
We have an in-house nutritionist that does cooking demos and so the lower floor will have a much expanded kitchen/bar area where she can teach different recipes.
Before anyone asks, we have a nutritionist because let’s face it, many people in our industry (cough…cough) eat crap. Now that I’m in my 40s, I really regret the things I ate and I wish I knew then what I know now. So this is one of those things we can do to help those who are interested eat healthy good food.
The kitchen on the main floor is being converted to a fitness room. Our in-house trainer works with those interested in physically training (mostly flexibility and weight related training). I did this because, again, now that I’m in my 40s and I can barely touch my knees due to 2 decades of sitting at a computer, I wish someone had told me or..ahem motivated me (i.e. a trainer) to take just a little time each week to stay in better shape. It’s voluntary of course but the response has been really positive.
This is the work area downstairs where Galactic Civilizations III’s team will be moving down into. That way the So—nevermind, the OTHER team will be have most of the top floor.
Old man Paxton (Stardock’s new VP, Kael) has been pushing to expand the QA team further which means, of course, more room. I have tried (but failed) to explain that it’s the compiler’s job to do QA. If it compiles, that means it works. For some reason, he disagrees.
Like Oxide, Mohawk is an independent studio. Like Oxide, Stardock’s roll is to provide seed capital and the business management aspects (the stuff that tends to bog down start-ups).
When I have more time, I plan to discuss in some detail the way the Stardock Investment Fund (SIF) functions. It doesn’t just throw money at studios. SIF also provides employee services (health insurance, 401Ks, accounting, legal, and bunches of other “stuff”) and then incorporates the studios into a wider development network that allows each group to share resources.
Those of you who are familiar with the game industry know how volatile employment at these places can be. The SIF is designed so that someone can have a career at these studios without worrying about being laid off randomly because a project ended. Instead, the studios just contract resources between each other.
Mohawk is working on an economic conquest game code-named Mars (and I can’t think of anything to usefully compare it to except MULE but this is not like MULE other than being in the same genre).
More to Come
There are a few more endeavors that are starting to get close to being announced. We’ll be talking about those in the coming weeks/months.