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Published on May 5, 2016 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

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Impulse to GameStop

Back in 2011 Stardock sold its digital distribution platform, Impulse, to GameStop and began migrating its titles to Steam, GOG, Green Man Gaming, Gamersgate, and other sites.

Stardock Strategic Investment Fund

In 2013, we announced the formation of a strategic investment fund in which we invested in two types of studios: Ones that we directly founded and helped manage (see above) as well as helping fund promising new game studios (Mothership, BonusXP).

The First wave

The Stardock studios and Mohawk and Oxide are directly managed by Stardock.  To be clear: Mohawk and Oxide are both independent studios.  In their cases, Stardock handles the day to day business management freeing the teams to pursue innovative new games and technologies.

With the exception of Star Control, which is fairly far in development but won’t be released until next year, the first wave of titles from this endeavor has arrived. Galactic Civilizations III, Ashes of the Singularity and Offworld Trading Company all appear very successful.

What was the goal?

Our specific goal wasn’t simply to fund new game projects (though we have been doing that as well).  More specifically our goal was:

#1 Get a 4th generation engine that we can standardize on

#2 Concentrate experience game industry talent in one place so that the quality of all our titles increases

#3 Create an employment system such that when one project at one studio ends, the employees can be seamlessly put on a project in one of the other studios rather than doing the traditional mass lay offs that have hurt our industry so much.

So how has this worked out so far?

Goal 1 has been accomplished and then some.  The Nitrous engine allowed us to create a really good new RTS at a fraction of the normal cost to build a game in this genre which allows us to continue to build it up over the next several years.

What makes Nitrous unique is that it shouldn’t become obsolete any time soon:

  • 64-bit (Our older, 32-bit engines are stuck at 2GB of memory. This has hurt us in updating Sins of a Solar Empire for instance, we literally can’t add more units into the game at this stage without a major effort)
  • Core Neutral.  This means that the engine will automatically use as many CPU cores as your system has.  In 8 years when we all have 16 core systems, the engine will use it.  It means the games built on it today can still be updated and enhanced without engine changes. 
  • GPU Neutral.  This means that every core will try to talk to the GPU.  In most games, either the “main thread” or a dedicated thread will talk to the GPU.  In Nitrous, every core will talk to it.  So again, as time goes on, the advantage will only grow.
  • Object Space Rendering.  This is a complicated way of saying that the engine renders things like CGI in movies rather than how games do it (games usually use Deferred rendering, forward rendering or forward+ rendering, that’s why games never look like movies no matter how much hardware you throw at it, it’s the way a scene is put together).

Those 4 things are huge and mean Star Control (which uses Nitrous) and Ashes of the Singularity and other games we’re developing with it will be future proofed.  There’s other little things in there such as the engine being resolution independent (you could pop Ashes onto an 8K display and it would look gorgeous. UI scales and the graphics simply get more detailed due to the way lighting is done).

Goal 2 has definitely been achieved.  Offworld Trading Company is a great example of what happens when you bring talented people together. Same with Ashes of the Singularity and as people have seen since GalCiv III’s launch, getting help and feedback from the people who made Civ III, Civ IV and Civ V has made a huge difference that will be a big deal in next year’s efforts.

Goal 3 Is probably the goal that means the most to me personally.  With Offworld Trading Company released, many of the artists and engineers are now on to boosting the Star Control team even though, technically, Stardock and Mohawk are separate entities.  Similarly, many Stardock artists, having finished their part on an unannounced title for now, have been moved onto Ashes of the Singularity for its expansions even though Oxide is a separate company.

What’s next?

As the chart shows above, there are a lot of unannounced games in development still. Not to mention, there will be expansions and DLC of the existing titles.

But so far, so good.


Comments
on May 05, 2016

Can't wait to see what those announced games are.

What is happening with Servo and Sorcerer King?

Will there be another chance to obtain the Founder's package for Star Control?

on May 05, 2016

That's a pretty innovative flow in goal 3... Cultivating a good talent pool and retaining skill is vital for a company like Stardock.

 

If you're looking for a challenge, Stardock might actually be in the position (technology wise) to challenge another 900 pound RTS gorilla... Creative Assembly.

Do you think Nitrous engine could be adapted for that kind of gameplay? If so, there might be some underappreciated talent right there in Australia that you might want to consider plus a relatively large player base that has been disaffected since Empire Total War.

 

 

on May 05, 2016

Rhonin_the_wizard

Can't wait to see what those announced games are.

What is happening with Servo and Sorcerer King?

Will there be another chance to obtain the Founder's package for Star Control?

Sorcerer King comes out of the Kumquat era still. So it's not really part of that endeavor.

Servo is being developed by BonusXP. They're still working on it.

on May 05, 2016

zarax999

That's a pretty innovative flow in goal 3... Cultivating a good talent pool and retaining skill is vital for a company like Stardock.

 

If you're looking for a challenge, Stardock might actually be in the position (technology wise) to challenge another 900 pound RTS gorilla... Creative Assembly.

Do you think Nitrous engine could be adapted for that kind of gameplay? If so, there might be some underappreciated talent right there in Australia that you might want to consider plus a relatively large player base that has been disaffected since Empire Total War.

 

 

From a technology perspective, absolutely.  But from a budget perspective? No.  The CA engine is very good and it has the benefit of many years of refinement along with much higher budgets as merited by franchises that have built up a large fan base.

on May 05, 2016

Frogboy


From a technology perspective, absolutely.  But from a budget perspective? No.  The CA engine is very good and it has the benefit of many years of refinement along with much higher budgets as merited by franchises that have built up a large fan base.

 

Thanks for your answer, I appreciate the honesty.

That said, do you think Stardock could ever be interested in having a similar double layer?

A "strategic management" view with something akin to Galciv III engine with tactical battles using Nitrous engine could be the technological basis for the "total strategy game to rule them all", especially if coupled with a robust and flexible modding framework.

It would likely require a business partnership to pull something like that off (something you may or may not be open about) but to cite a recent GOG promo "Stardock meets Paradox" could create the next big RTS evolution.

on May 05, 2016

Good results so far!

OTC I've loved since early access and Ashes of the Singularity I'm just getting into now---but it seems to be replacing StarCraft 2 in my gaming rotation. 

Goal 3 has to be the toughest. Even here at 'giant game company in Irvine' they struggle with staffing when no one really knows for sure what's next down the pipe. And people just can't sit around wondering what's next---especially when it's crunch time on a project and you are trying to focus on work, but yet you're wondering if you'll have a job in a month.

Keep up the good work!

on May 05, 2016

zarax999


Quoting Frogboy,


From a technology perspective, absolutely.  But from a budget perspective? No.  The CA engine is very good and it has the benefit of many years of refinement along with much higher budgets as merited by franchises that have built up a large fan base.



 

Thanks for your answer, I appreciate the honesty.

That said, do you think Stardock could ever be interested in having a similar double layer?

A "strategic management" view with something akin to Galciv III engine with tactical battles using Nitrous engine could be the technological basis for the "total strategy game to rule them all", especially if coupled with a robust and flexible modding framework.

It would likely require a business partnership to pull something like that off (something you may or may not be open about) but to cite a recent GOG promo "Stardock meets Paradox" could create the next big RTS evolution.

Oh definitely.  If there is the right game design for it.  But personally, I'm happy playing Total War.

on May 05, 2016


64-bit (Our older, 32-bit engines are stuck at 2GB of memory. This has hurt us in updating Sins of a Solar Empire for instance, we literally can’t add more units into the game at this stage without a major effort)

I am really hoping that Ironclad comes back to your guys (which would make sense) to put out a Sins 2. Still one of my all time favorites to play but its age is showing.

on May 05, 2016

I am extremely joyed that you have been able to accomplish #3. If other companies can learn to adopt this strategy it s a huge win for good capitalism.

on May 05, 2016

That makes one of us that CAN play it...

on May 06, 2016

Well if your done with sins, you could always make something like a combination of spore, virtual village, (empire earth 3, rise of nations, and civ world), (sins of a solar empire, StarCraft 2, shattered suns, escape into endless, and distant worlds). The problem with spore was there was no game. Also a game that combines galactic civilizations 3 and endless space with civilization 4 and call to power 2 would be nice.

on May 06, 2016

i'm crossing my fingers that stardock plymouth unannounced game is sins ...and i'm hoping they didn't put ironclad name because..well it would be duh in the obvious department