The goal: Create the biggest scale real-time strategy game ever
Ashes of the Singularity is a real-time strategy game set in the not-so-distant future where a single person can control thousands of constructs (the distant descendants of today’s drones) in order to conquer an entire world.
The world is broken up into regions with each region containing various resources that players capture and can then build up defenses, exploit the resources within and use as a staging area to conquer more of the world.
Little tiny ants
On the one hand, we want players to get a sense of the epic scale of these maps and see vast armies battling it out without turning them all into icons. On the other hand, we want players to be engaged with the world so we’ve resisted getting too abstract with how we display everything. Every unit in Ashes is unique with a specific role whose differences can be subtle. Hence, if we got too abstract, it becomes impossible to recognize the interplay between different unit mixes. One of the strengths of using Oxide’s Nitrous engine is that we can zoom way way out without hiding or abstracting units. The downside is, of course, you zoom out enough and everything looks like “little tiny ants”
The other big challenge has been hardware requirements: Ashes of the Singularity v1.0 requires a video card with 2GB of video memory and a 4-core CPU with a display of 1920x1080 and 4GB of video memory.
According to the Steam hardware survey these requirements have consequences for us.
- The 4-core CPU requirement costs us 51% of the Steam user base right off the bat.
- The 2GB video memory eliminates 59% of the user base
- And the display resolution cuts out 53% of the user base.
It is safe to say that at least 70% of the Steam user base cannot currently run Ashes of the Singularity due to low hardware requirements. Despite that, during the month of July Ashes of the Singularity past the 100,000 units sold mark.
We knew, long ago, that our hardware requirements would ensure that Ashes was a niche title on release. It’s done substantially better than projected (in fact, it has done far better than it has any business doing given the hardware requirements and the genre).
To put it in perspective, Ashes sales are at the top of the RTS charts for new 2016 releases despite not having a well known IP and costing $39.99.
Still, a goal of ours is to reduce the hardware requirements. That’s where version 1.3 comes in.
On August 4 Ashes 1.3 was released and we are on the edge of being able to reduce the hardware requirements to 1GB of memory and a 2-core CPU. We’re not there yet but we’re getting pretty close. The one area we really need to work on is the minimum display resolution which is tricky given how generous we were in our UI design (generous to ourselves that is).
Some highlights of 1.3 include:
- New unit physics system so that units can now turn on a dime and are exceptionally responsive.
- New army organization system that breaks armies into companies if they are split up so that they don’t always have to be together in a single giant group
- Updated pathfinding so that units don’t glomb up on each other
- Updated UI across the board
- 5 new (free) maps
- Map ping for multiplayer
- Various bug fixes and balance updates
It’s a pretty meaty update, particularly under the hood. Someone who bought Ashes of the Singularity in May who hasn’t played it since and downloaded version 1.3 would discover that Ashes is a lot faster, a lot smarter, a lot prettier and has a much better campaign. Too late for reviews but important for rewarding early adopters and fans.
Multiplayer: Season 2 begins
Season 1 is over and the winners are:
The ranked multiplayer in Ashes is similar to that of Hearthstone which probably isn’t surprising since it was designed by Adrian Luff who joined us after having been an architect of Battle.net for twenty years. Of the top 10 players, 6 players were Substrate and 4 were PHC.
You can explore the Metaverse by going here: http://www.ashesofthesingularity.com/metaverse. This site also includes the DirectX 11/12 hardware performance results.
Single Player: What’s coming
Despite Ashes having a pretty lively multiplayer community, over 95% of the player base only plays single player. As in, they have never attempted to play multiplayer. This is important for fans to understand because we often see people wanting us to spend more time on multiplayer features (something we tend to want to do because we play multiplayer).
So often we have to make tough decisions on whether to put engineering time into features to help multiplayer or engineering time to support modding (we think a lot of people would love to make their own units or just share scenarios and maps with one another via Steamworks).
For that reason, modding and sharing mods will make up a lot of our upcoming engineering time. We want people to be able to make maps, units, scenarios, UI changes, buildings, terrain, etc. and share it easily withy one another.
The first expansion for Ashes of the Singularity will be coming out this Fall. It will be a stand-alone expansion (i.e. you won’t need to buy the base game). This is the same thing we did with Sins of a Solar Empire and Fallen Enchantress and it worked well. A new player would just buy the expandalone and get the base game and the expansion integrated. DLC from the base game will migrate to the expansion (i.e. players won’t have to buy it again).
We also plan to allow people with the base game and the expansion (despite being different products) to be able to play together in multiplayer. We don’t want to split the community and it gives us an opportunity, over time, to make the base game of Ashes of the Singularity a good introduction.
We’ll be announcing the expansion soon but in the meantime, here are some general details:
- Will have three episodes (one of which is Imminent Crisis from the base game)
- Lots of new defense buildings
- New global abilities
- Bigger map size
- More players per map
- Roughly a dozen new units
- Game setup options
- New types of worlds
- Global view (similar to Strategic Zoom in GalCiv, SupCom, Sins)
There are a ton of other features as well but those features will be added to the base game as well for free.
The base price for the expandalone will be $39.99. For a limited time, the upgrade price for existing players will be $14.99.