Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.

 

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:

image

 

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:

image

(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

image

Sins: Star Trek

So let’s break that down:

image

Here are things we have to make:

image

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)

 

image

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

 

image

A UI editor (we currently modify this by hand)

 

image

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

 

image

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:

 

image

Current Ascendancy wars

image

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.

image

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


Comments (Page 1)
on Dec 18, 2016

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.

 

That would be great, but, would it be possible to have something like that, but with other terrain types? Such as, multiple islands with tons of water around, a large volcano in the process of spewing lava (never gets to water). Basically, mix up all the terrain we already have, such as lava, crystal, ground, mountains, water, etc.


Lots of power user interactive features


What do you mean by this?


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.


Honestly, I like the current level system for them, but I would make it go past Lvl 5. Adding more things for them to do would be wonderful, though. Maybe have a way to equip them? Such as, a fourth dread which you can customize before you begin the match? Such as, you can choose which weapons it would have from the current dreads. Seems overly complicated but I'd dig that. As for the removing the current system altogether, I'd shy from that. But it really would depend on what that cool macro is.

 

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.

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

 

Can't wait! Already hyped. 

 

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.


It would depend on what that spreading thing is and what it does. It could be a race specific thing. Speaking of which, how cool would that be? Each race having its own third way to win. Examples;

PHC: Build a 'node' which connects to other PHC worlds and allowing all their quanta from all worlds with a gate to link, hence, instant win. Super expensive, super long build time, and it is marked on the mini map after the enemy finds it. The enemy becomes aware of its construction when it's a quarter done.

Sub: Turns all metal/radioactive/quanta that they gain towards the production of a new sub AI. When completed the AI 'hacks' the enemy nexus and takes it over to use as it's own. 

Nemesis: Controlling a node for an X amount of time makes the node release spores(or something like your idea). When they reach critical mass they attack the enemy nexus.

The Rebel Humans: They can build a planetary quanta jammer which cuts off the enemy access to the planet. 

 

A lot of these are more or less the same thing but with different names and explanations. Would give the game more variety and incentive to get it over its competition since who want's the same lame wins when you have a different win per faction. Plus, more replayability and everything. 

 

So this would be ocean.

 

So, the ocean is a great idea. It's a largely requested feature so it makes sense. But, is there any chance of more than just land and water in the future? 

 

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.

 

Campaign is too generic, I would keep Ascendancy Wars for it. It sounds cool, and every war has it'sown name (I.E. War of the Golden Stool, Holy Man's Rebellion, October Incident. (all real wars)). So, assuming you keep Ascendancy Wars for the main story arch, the secondary mode could use a different name, or could just be Conquest. 

As for the gameplay itself;

Each world gives you wealth quanta, which you can use to buy different perks. Say, you get 10k quanta this way, and you get to start with a decent base built (2 or 3 factories, defenses, quanta generators). You can use it start with defenses alone, or maybe with a small army from the get-go. The Ai gets to use their own abilities in the same way. 

 

Skins are a great idea! I love it. Like, different colors for your forces, or just for different units? Maybe for buildings? Or particle effects? All of the above?

 

The longer-term version will require some more thought.

 

Sponsor some YouTubers and Streamers, give them a free copy of the game every now and then to use as a prize to viewers, like, have the viewers leave a comment and the best comment gets the free copy. It could really boost the game by getting it more publicity at the expense of maybe 5 copies of the game a month. Though you should do research to see who the popular people are and who you want to do this with. 

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

 

Current resources;

Metal

Radio actives

Quanta

 

New resources would have to fill in some gap and be useful somehow. 

Research (needs a better name)

 

As for the tech tree, I thought of an idea. How about something that adds diversity to the game? Well, that's the idea as it is I guess. My idea is as follows; Let the player choose how they grow with more impactful decisions, while at the same time giving players a unique experience every game. The Research resource can be used to unlock techs. Say, 100 research can be used to either unlock air units or T2 units. Another 100 can be used to unlock another thing. Example; 100 research->air, 100 research-> bombers, 100 research -> T2. Or, 100 research T2-> 100 research -> more advanced T2 (like artillery or sniper), 250 research -> T3. 

With that system, each game would depend on player choices and would increase diversity in each match massively. But it is a big change and idk if you'll want to do it. 

 

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.

 

Yay, 4 races and diversity. As for the hovering units sinking.... Why? What's the reason it sinking other than for just gameplay purposes? I mean, if they can use gravity to keep themselves above land can't they use gravity over water? It's not like gravity vanishes when you're above water. Wouldn't it be better to allow them to go over water, but they get a large slow debuff, and water units have longer (than average) range and dmg? 

 

 

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


For me personally, I would love the two other factions to be added. I'm not big on water units (rarely used them in Supreme Commander 2). I would also love to see an air T3, and a water T3. 

on Dec 18, 2016

Wow, so much exciting stuff going on! Really cant wait to play with al these things! I really hope those Juggernauts will be add to the game during the end of winter as you mention it before in the steam forums. We really need those units in game to add some extra diversity to the game.

I hope you can answer some questions

1. Will those Juggernauts have more diversity in weapons then the current T3?

2. Is there something in the pipeline to get better explosions?

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

 







on Dec 18, 2016

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.

Eh, unorthodox maybe but I'm sure more than a few of your regular customers like to see this kind of honesty.  Half the reason I keep coming back to your products is that your team sticks with them long enough for there to be a visible learning experience and beyond Demigod (which wasn't really your fault as I recall), takes action to keep improvements coming.  For me, it's heartening to know you guys are keeping an eye on what other games do well.  Even if you can't incorporate everything, knowing what 'works' can only help you in the long run.

Again, despite my regular and specific criticisms, for what it's worth, I do appreciate that your team's vision still involves growing and improving the product.  Buying Escalation was an easy choice for me and I'd be happy to throw more cash at some of the content that I'm seeing here.

on Dec 18, 2016

While I was not a massive fan of ashes originally, seeing all the plans that you guys have in place and the general direction of escalation is making me really excited for the future of this game. Also excited for upcoming mod support features/tools

on Dec 19, 2016

Sorry for breaking the thread.  

Can't even edit the post because it's hidden the buttons.

on Dec 19, 2016

centaurianmudpig

Sorry for breaking the thread.  

Can't even edit the post because it's hidden the buttons.

Fixed up, sorry it had to be deleted. Not sure what happened there. I suppose you can break your reply into separate posts.

on Dec 19, 2016

In response to the person higher up who said about sponsoring streamers i suggest possibly sponsoring one of the FAF community casters like Gyle or Speed2 as thats the audience that is most likely to add to the community if they find out about the game

on Dec 19, 2016

Love absolutely everything except this:

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.

The current system is awesome, it allows you to focus your Dreadnaught exactly how you want. If you really want to change it, increase the max levels perhaps to allow for a "flawless" Dreadnaught at max level (Every skill and bonus taken).

on Dec 19, 2016

I wouldn't mind seeing some tweaks to the T3 improvement system but it's hard to compare what's there to a new proposal without knowing what he meant by "interesting things." As it stands, a lot of the current skill upgrades feel like they've been arbitrarily assigned to one exclusive tree or the other since many of them don't seem related to one another (the Cronus radar upgrade requiring a close-range area attack, for example).  Plus, from what I've seen of competitive play, with a free instant-heal in the mix and the relatively low army counts in most games, it seems like many of the existing skills aren't getting much use to begin with.

If things stay as they are now, as a QOL feature, I do think it'd be nice if there were some way to see the entire skill lineup rather than just the two (plus the heal) that are available at level-up.  As a new player especially, it's harder to make an informed choice with your Dreads when it's not clear where each 'tree' is going.

 

on Dec 19, 2016

We want Ashes to become the ultimate RTS game

And many of us want to see this ultimate RTS game

 

Step 2: You need the gameplay

None of the points you list address gameplay, if you are talking solely from playing the game. You have good gameplay, though what irks me is the lack of storyline. Though to say adding a storyline will fix x amount of problems means nothing. I've been playing Grey Goo recently. I am impressed with the storyline. Yet it's another under the radar game. It seems RTS just isn't as popular as it was, probably due to the whole FPS boom which provide a more instant gratification with little negative set backs which can be quickly remedied.

 

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.

 

Any developer starting a new IP with face this challenge.  Perhaps why COD and Battlefield are the major players in the FPS genre and why Titanfall 2 struggles to make sales from it's own merits.  The consumer appears to be afraid of change or weary in investing in new IP's even when existing IP's disappoint (or get more boring) year over year.  On the other hand it allows you to be more creative, instead of creating content where all other games have come before, you can add something previously unseen.

on Dec 19, 2016


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.

I'm just going to throw this out there. What about being able to customise our own loadouts? Perhaps allow the building of upgrades directly on the T3 when it is already built. The level system would allow better upgrades to be built/swapped/changed...

on Dec 19, 2016

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.

This reminds me of your original idea of the Substrate only being able to build on some organic compound that grew and spread, yet abandoned as it slowed down expansion too much. This could be a growth that damaged enemy structures once it reached them, neutralise or capture Power Generators, slow down enemy unit speed. Just brain storming here.

on Dec 19, 2016

Great single player replayability

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

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.

That sounds great. Campaign should just be that, a series of mission you get to play out.

Ascendancy Wars is the take over of the galaxy. It would be nice to mix this up. Have objectives to accomplish, rather than just destroy the enemy base or reach critical mass. Side story's could be played out over a period of time, supplementing the campaign lore.

I loved the idea of fighting over a battlefield since Command and Conquer introduced a world region in which you had limited choices in which battlefields you could engage in. Red Alert 2 allowed players to fight over territory online. Emperor for Dune expanded on that idea for single player.

on Dec 19, 2016

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.

That’s the near-term boost we can do.

The longer-term version will require some more thought.

That's a cool idea, which must have expanded from part of the Tournament edition idea. What about integration with third party apps? Can something be done with Discord? Specifically mentioned because its the new flavour for gamers and is pretty popular platform for gamers.

on Dec 19, 2016

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.

I'm all positive for more additional races adding unique gameplay elements and their own styles to the mix.

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