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ASHES DEV JOURNAL: March 2017

Posted on Monday, March 13, 2017 By Draginol

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## ASHES OF THE SINGULARITY IS EVERYWHERE ##

We just came back from the Game Developer's Conference.   It was a great week for the Nitrous engine (the underlying engine used in Ashes of the Singularity).

Big News: AMD is bundling Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation with more and more CPUs  The hardware bundling keeps a steady stream of new players coming into our community.

Moreover, the AMD Ryzen chips, which are 8-cores, really show off the power of the game. As more people get 4 core machines and more powerful video cards (like the AMD Radon VEGA) the more people that can play the game which in turn allows us to increase the rate of development even further.

As you know, the up-front hardware wall on Ashes of the Singularity is fairly high.  If you don't have an SSD, loading the game is slow.  If you have low resolution, the fonts are blurry.  If you don't have at least a 2GB video card, the graphics are slow.  What players get in return, however, is that the game doesn't slow down, even late game. 

Thus, the faster AMD, Intel and NVIDIA can get mainstream high-end, DirectX 12 and Vulkan hardware out there, the quicker the adoption of Ashes of the Singularity.

Now, let's talk about what's coming in Version 2.2 this month...

[[..]]

## REPLAYS ##

We've been talking about Replays forever.  Well this week, you'll be able to try them out in the Opt-In.

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## MODDING ##

If you run the game with -modding you will get a different menu.

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We still require the -modding command line parameter in order to discourage casual players from using the Map Editor until it is more consumer friendly.  However, new in 2.2 is the Modding button.  Pressing that will display a list of mods.  We'll be posting some sample ones in the coming days so you can see how to make them and use them.  Once we nail down the robustness of it, this will become generally visible and connected via Steam Workshop or GOG Galaxy.

Read here for the Modding Guide: http://wiki.ashesofthesingularity.com/index.php/Modders_Guide

 

## AI ##

Yes, the AI got an update to deal with the balance changes.

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## BALANCE ##

Some months ago we began teaming up with the General's Gentlemen.  Since then, we've brought him on board to take over the day-to-day design of Ashes of the Singularity from me.  I'm not going anywhere but with Escalation now available, it's time to bring on a dedicated designer for the game. 

Version 2.1 was released with his map balance pass.  Version 2.2 comes with his first overall game pass.  Below are his changes and the rationale behind them.

Purpose

Aside from obviously making the game more balanced and fair, these pillars served as the goal for this patch.

  • Refine the Counter system to function properly so that units are not countering more than they are supposed to, such as Athena's countering Frigates.
  • Increase strategic diversity so that games feel unique and require players to think on their feet instead of repeating the same things every match. This is mainly done by nerfing units which are overperforming and buffing units which are too weak or overpriced to make them viable.
  • Open up the late game tech: Most matches, even team games, don’t involve players making use of late game tech such as heavy air units, Dreadnaughts and Hera/Eradicator. We want players to make use of these tools and are making them more accessible.
  • Make Substrate less Radioactives intensive: Substrate suffer from having much higher radioactives costs compared to PHC. This makes them underperform on maps low on Radioactives.
  • Weaken exploitative “cheese” strategies such as Artillery Post spam, rushing air units or an Orbital Fabricator to spawn sentries in your opponent's base.
  • Improve game flow by making Base defenses less potent.
  • Make the game more welcoming for newer players

One of the most significant changes is to Prevent double capping before creeps spawn. In high level games, players are able to capture two points at the start of the game before the creeps spawn by boosting the Nexus with the first Engineer or by calling down an Emergency/Serpentine Turret.  This was not intentional, and we find double capping a frustrating dynamic and we want to remove it for the following reasons:

  • There’s no real decision making behind it, if you don’t double cap you are behind
  • It is an unintuitive hurdle for new players
  • It requires speed and precision. Ashes is supposed to be a game of strategy, not of fast clicks
  • It is easy to stuff up, especially due to lag, and if you do it is very punishing and frustrating
  • It often made North spawns on maps stronger because of the spawn direction of the Engineers
  • It required lots of practise learning which maps you can and can’t double cap on. This isn’t fun.
  • It allowed for frustrating strategies such as air rushing to be too effective and difficult to identify

Engineers will be receiving a cost reduction to allow for a much faster Factory to get into the action.

Factions

PHC

Substrate is a much easier faction to play at a low skill level due to no storage limitations and all of the units being trained from the Assembly. Even at a high level, it is difficult to constantly keep resources below 500. Increasing the starting resources of PHC gives new them a more breathing room where resources are not wasted.

  • Starting storage increased from 500 to 1000

Units

Engineers & Constructors

The Engineer and Constructor are extremely fragile for their cost of 400. Losing an Engineer in the early game can be disastrous and it often happens instantly before the player has a chance to respond. This is frustrating in general, especially for new players, but it also makes Dominator and Furies far too potent at harassment, overshadowing the Punisher and Hades. 

Engineer

  • Health increased from 120 to 250
  • Build time increased from 26 to 40
  • Metal cost decreased from 400 to 300

Constructor

  • Shields increased from 100 to 170
  • Health increased from 30 to 80
  • Build time Increased from 26 to 40
  • Metal cost reduced from 380 to 300

Frigates

Hermes

The Hermes does not perform enough recon for its cost and fragility, resulting in it being rarely built

  • Sight range increased from 600 to 750
  • Radar range increased from 1000 to 1200

Archer

The Archer costs the same logistics as the Brute, (1) despite costing more than twice the Metal, and two thirds of a Martyr. Its Logistics cost should reflect its performance and metal cost

  • Logistics cost increased from 1 to 2

Medic

The Medic’s heal rate is too high, large numbers of Medics give Cruisers and structures too much durability. It is also getting its movement speed reduced to prevent it from automatically running forward in front of other units.

  • Heal rate lowered to 66% of its current value
  • Logistics cost Increase from 1 to 3
  • Movement speed reduced to that of Brute

Martyr

The Martyr is too weak compared to other Frigates, especially compared to the Reaper. As well as needing a buff, it also needs to get some kind of purpose and role compared to Reaper. Given that it’s fast compared to other Frigates, it is also getting an Increase its shield regeneration rate to make it suitable as a harassment unit. A further buff to movement speed is being considered for next patch, depending on how the Martyr performs.

  • Shields increased from 60 to 105
  • Shield regeneration rate increased from 0.5 to 1
  • Build time reduced from 23 to 19
  • Logistics cost reduced from 4 to 2

Capacitor

The Capacitor has a large energy storage, but once it depletes it takes too long to regenerate. It also has far too much health which can make it exploited as a cheap damage soak. Increasing its energy regeneration in exchange for lowering health will make it perform its intended role as a support unit more reliably. It is also getting its movement speed reduced to prevent it from automatically running forward in front of other units.

  • Energy per second regeneration increased from 1 to 4
  • Shields reduced from 500 to 300
  • Movement speed reduced to that of Reaper

Cruisers

Masochist

The Masochist is too strong for its cost at and needs to have its cost raised. It also only costs 2 logistics, half that of the Avenger. This must be an oversight

  • Metal cost increased from 230 to 300
  • Logistics cost increased from 2 to 5
  • Build time increased from 24 to 40

Avenger

The Avenger had a serious underlying problem where it was very powerful against other Cruisers and even Dreadnaughts, instead of just the Frigates like it is supposed to. Most players under estimated how potent the Avenger is because of how quickly they die, but they are so cheap and with so much damage that armies of Avengers would take out anything (apart from buildings.) One of the reasons causing them to over perform vs Cruisers and Dreads was its high damage but low projectile speed, resulting in it overshooting and wasting shells on Frigates, which wouldn’t happen vs Cruisers due to the higher health pool. 

In order to make the Avenger perform the role of anti-frigate more consistently, it needed more movement speed, less damage in exchange for less health, but it also needed to get less damage in exchange for faster projectile speed. The 60% damage reduction may seem extreme, but the projectile speed buff increases DPS. It should also be priced more appropriately for a Cruiser.

  • Shields increased from 300 to 500
  • Metal cost increased from 212 to 292
  • Damage reduced by 60%
  • Projectile speed increased
  • Armour piercing removed
  • Movement speed increased from 80 to 100
  • Shield Regen Rate reduced from 10 to 1 (other cruisers have 1)

Athena:

Despite the nerfs to the Athena in 2.03, it is still much stronger than the Mauler despite being cheaper. The following changes will equalise the performance of these two units for their cost. Lowering the damage of the secondary weapons prevents the Athena from being so potent against Frigates, ruining the counter system and overshadowing the Zeus.

· Main gun damage reduced by 10%

· Radioactives cost increased from 30 to 60

· Secondary weapons damage halved

Mauler:

The Mauler has full armour Penetration which allows it to vaporise Dreadnaughts and the Hera far too quickly. (Athena has no armour or armour penetration) This can not be intentional as it makes Eradicators obsolete.

· Logistics cost increased from 4 to 7

· Radioactives cost lowered from 80 to 60

· Metal cost reduced from 380 to 350

· Armour Penetration removed

Hera

The Hera has little health but high armour, which leaves it far too vulnerable to armour piercing attacks. To buff it as well as giving it more consist survivability it’s losing some health in exchange for armour. It also costs the same logistics as the Athena, despite costing twice as much resources.

  • Health increased from 1200 to 2500
  • Armour reduced from 16 to 12 (80% damage reduction to 60%)
  • Logistics cost increased from 8 to 16
  • Build time increased from 25 to 40
  • Movement speed increased from 50 to 60

Eradicator

The role of the Eradicator is incredibly unintuitive; it is a big slow heavy Cruiser yet it fills the role of a glass cannon, with insanely high damage but low survivability. To make the Eradicator more visually intuitive and fill a role unique to Substrate, it should get armour in exchange for losing some of its damage. The Eradicator also takes too long to build and costs too little Logistics.

  • Build time decreased from 60 to 45
  • Logistics cost increased from 12 to 18
  • Now has 10 armour (50% damage reduction)
  • Main gun Damage halved
  • Movement speed increased from 50 to 60

Destructor

The Destructor is weaker than the Artemis due to a few reasons:

  1. Less damage vs buildings
  2. No Area of effect damage
  3. No indirect fire against units

The only real advantage is 1400 range instead of 1250, but this is not enough to compensate. In order to help equalise their performance, the Destructor should get a slight damage boost, especially with the buffs to many of the PHC defenses.

  • Main weapon damage increased by 30%

Caregiver

The Caregiver is currently pathetic, it currently heals pitiful amounts compared to even the Medic. It needs a huge buff to its heal rate for it to be viable, even despite the AOE heal as well as costing 30 logistics is also far too much. The Caregiver will now help sustain Substrate against the AOE damage of the artillery post.

  • Logistics cost reduced from 30 to 10
  • Build time reduced from 100 to 60
  • Heal rate increased by 400%

Apollo

Apollo was underperforming a little bit, but now with Punisher getting its shield increased, the Apollo especially needs its damage vs air buffed to match the buffs in AA defenses.

  • Anti-Air damage increased by 33%
  • Logistics cost increased from 3 to 5

Mobile Nullifier (Substrate and PHC)

The Mobile Nullifiers cost far too much resources, about 5 times the cost of the Orbital Nullifier structure. As a result, the Mobile Nullifiers are never used as there is far too much opportunity cost such as investing in Quantum Relays to use the Orbital Jam ability or leap frogging the Nullifier structures forward.

  • Metal Cost reduced from 1000 to 700
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 800 to 400
  • Logistics cost reduced from 100 to 40

Charon

The Charon is extremely over priced and as a result is never used. It also suffers from inconsistent survivability due to low health and high armour.

  • Metal Cost reduced from 1000 to 700
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 800 400
  • Logistics cost reduced from 1000 to 40
  • Health increased from  600 to 1500
  • Armour reduced to 16 to 10 (80% damage reduction to 50%)

Dreadnaughts

Dreadnaughts are rarely seen as amassing cruisers is far more cost efficient, as well as the huge investment of a dreadnaught results in too much lost momentum. Globally lowering the cost of Dreadnaughts will make them more viable and increase strategic diversity. The proposed 20% cost reduction is being conservative, I expect an even higher cost reduction will be necessary to make Dreadnaughts desirable and perform for their cost given the massive lost in momentum their heavy investment involves and with how strong the c

The Substrate Dreadnaughts, Overmind and Retributor especially, are underperforming due to having pitiful damage no armour when the PHC Dreadnaughts have 90% damage reduction! The Overmind and Retributor are receiving some hefty buffs, but these are necessary to put their performance in line with PHC Dreadnaughts and to make them perform for cost compared to mass cruisers.

  • All Dreadnaughts now cost 20% less resources
  • All Substrate Dreadnaughts now have 8 Armour. (40% damage reduction)

The additional shields of Substrate Dreadnaughts have still does not equate in the durability of PHC Dreadnaughts due to their additional armour.

Overmind

The Overmind is not only the weakest Dreadnaught, it also costs an insane amount of Radioactives. The opportunity cost of 5000 radioactives is far too valuable, such as 16 Quantum relays. The Overmind now has incredibly high damage output, but it is still countered by mixing in anti-drone units.

  • Metal cost increased from 2000 to 3000 (2400 after global reduction)
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 5000 to 3000 (2400 after global reduction)
  • Secondary weapon damage doubled
  • Now spawns 5 Drone Swarms instead of 3.

Retributor

These changes see the Retributor still lose a direct fight vs the Hyperion, which seems fair because of the shields. The Secondary damage increase gives it much stronger damage versus groups of Cruisers and Frigates. The minimum range was giving the Retributor inconsistent performance vs Cruisers.

  • Primary weapon damage increased by 150%
  • Primary weapon minimum range removed
  • Secondary weapon damage Quadrupled

Prometheus

With the addition of armour to Substrate Dreadnaughts, the Prometheus needed to get armour Penetration to compensate. (This will affect buildings)

  • Main Gun now has 99 Armour Pen

Dreadnaught Level up Heal [not implemented]

When dreadnaughts level up, they can get the ability to fully repair themselves instantly. This is overpowered  very frustrating for the opponent, this ability should be replaced with something else or nerfed in some way such as only healing 5000 health.

Air Units

Delaying the Dominator and Punisher Air Rush

Substrate being able to produce Dominators and Punishers from the Assembly so early on in the game creates immense balance problems in a frustrating and unfair dynamic of air rushing. It is completely impossible to see a Dominator or a Punisher rush coming, and yet it is incredibly lethal due to:

  1. Being able to snipe Engineers and Extractors instantly,
  2. Air units being so fast to avoid anti-air when it is build,
  3. PHC not having any T1 anti-air,
  4. Punishers being able to 1v1 Apollos and Constables.
  5. Even if scouting was possible in time, there is no structure to identify a Substrate air rush, unlike PHC which has the Air Factory to signify air units.
  6. A land army follow up is easy due to Assemblies producing land units as well, where PHC can not easily transition out of an air rush.

In order to deflect an Air rush without losing too much, generally 2 Constables and 2 Apollos will be required, about 1000 Metal worth of investment. This necessary investment then puts the player so far behind, on top of what raw damage is actually dealt, it allows the air rusher to follow up with a large ground army and overwhelm their opponent. Alternatively, if the victim of the air rush decides to try and skimp out with anti-air to avoid getting overwhelmed by a land army, then there could instead be an air army follow up to close the game. Or the player could pre-emptively build air defense but then not encounter an air rush at all, getting too far behind because of the wasted early investment.

The underlying problem with Substrate air rushing is the impossibility to know if it is coming or not, what kind of follow up there will be, and being left unable to make a calculated strategic decision in response. The dynamic of air rushing is a “Build order Poker” where it’s luck of hoping to do the right response but if you make the wrong move you get severely punished or can lose the game outright. Substrate being able to produce Air Units from the Assembly so early adds nothing to the game except for frustration and unfair punishment to players who have not made any mistakes.

Fury rushes are also quite problematic, but with the health increase to Extractors and builder units, it will no longer be effective compared to rushing a Hades.

Solution:
The least drastic solution to fix this problematic dynamic is as follows:

  • Dominator requires Quantum Archive
  • Punisher Requires Gateway
  • Increase health of Extractors and Builder Units

The Punisher is far more potent than the Hades, so it’s okay if Punisher is arriving later than Hades due to Gateway requirement.

Punisher

The lethality of the Punisher is too high; it has insane damage but is very fragile. This means it over performs when rushed early on but once the opponent has anti-air it gets shot down immediately. In order for it to be more balanced and have its perform more consistently, it needs to lose a lot of its damage in exchange for some survivability.

  • Shields increased from 1500 to 2500
  • Metal cost increased from 150 to 250
  • Damage halved
  • Logistics cost reduced from 20 to 15
  • Build time reduced from 70 to 60

Hades

The Hades is too expensive for what it offers, especially compared to Punisher.

  • Metal cost decreased from 270 to 240
  • Radioactives cost decreased from 330 to 260
  • Logistics cost reduced from 20 to 15

Furies and Dominator

Furies and Dominators do not scale against heavy air units in the way that base defenses do, despite their heavy radioactives cost. Giving them a small amount of armour penetration will add more strategic diversity in countering heavy air units, where players will now have alternatives to only static defense. This also equalises their performance against both the Strategic Bomber and Air Harbinger.

  • Furies and Dominator now have 15% armour Penetration

Dominator

The Dominator underperforms for its cost compared to the Fury.

  • Shields increased from 1800 to 2100
  • Metal cost increased from 100 to 120
  • Radioactives cost decreased from 280 to 260

Strategic bomber

The Strategic Bomber is too durable against non-heavy anti air. It will still remain incredibly durable vs low tier anti-air, but not practically unkillable. There is also an issue where sometimes the Strategic Bomber will not be able to drop its bombs in time due to its small sight range. Increasing its sight range will allow it to acquire targets easier and perform more consistently.

  • Armour lowered from 16 to 14 (80% damage reduction to 70%)
  • Health increased from 4800 to 7000
  • Logististics cost lowered from 100 to 60 (Same as Harbinger)
  • Sight range increased from 500 to 800

Harbinger

With the buffs to air defense, the Harbinger needs its health increased to match the Strategic Bomber and better perform for its huge cost.

  • Shields increased from 4000 to 6000
  • Sight range increased from 500 to 800

Pan, Searcher & Instigator

The air scouts are far too weak, they get shot down before they can get any proper scouting done and they don’t have enough of a sight range advantage over Air Interceptors for them to be viable compared to the much more durable Furies and  Dominator.
Their weapons are also completely unnecessary as they are almost no damage. Air Scouts should have their weaponry removed to not mislead new players who might mistake them for gunships or try to use them to harass the enemy. (This has happened to me before) This change is about visual clarity and making the game more intuitive.

Pan

  • Health increased from 500 to 1500
  • Weapons removed
  • Logistics cost increased from 1 to 3
  • Sight range increased from 1000 to 1200
  • Radar increased from 1200 to 1400

Instigator

  • Health tripled
  • Metal cost lowered from 800 to 500
  • Logistics cost lowered from 20 to 10
  • Build time reduced from 80 to 40

Searcher

  • Movement speed increased to match Pan
  • Shields increased from 300 to 1400
  • Weapons removed
  • Sight range increased from 1000 to 1200
  • Radar increased from 1200 to 1400
  • Metal cost increased 100 to 120
  • Radioactives cost of 10 removed

Air Marauder

The Air Marauder and Air Rampager suffer from incredibly low damage. Especially with the damage buffs to anti air, these Gunships need some love.

  • Damage increased by 50%
  • Logistics cost increased from 4 to 15

Air Rampager

  • Damage increased by 50%
  • Health and shields doubled
  • Logistics cost reduced from 30 to 15
  • Rainmaker range increased from 400 to 800 (to match other weapon)

Buildings:


Nexus

Moving the scout planes to the nexus will allow for more scouting early on, players can see their opponents strategies and react instead of the “Build order Poker” where players blindly counter each other without knowing. It is incredibly frustrating losing to something you couldn’t counter because you couldn’t see it coming in time.

  • Pan and Searcher can now be built from the Nexus

PHC Nexus

The PHC Nexus is too durable with 10,000 health and 95% damage reduction

  • Armour reduced from 24 to 18 (95% to 90% damage reduction)

Advanced Assembly & Dread Launch

Dreadnaughts are already so expensive and take a long time to build that they are not viable most games, the Dreadnaught production structures don’t need to have a whopping build time on top of that.

  • Build time decreased from 180 to 70

Metal & Radioactives Extractors

The fragility of extractors makes them destroyed in the blink of an eye. This can be frustrating in general, but it’s especially problematic because it makes makes Furies and Dominators too potent at harassment, when they are supposed to be interceptors. For harassing extractors, players should be investing in Hades and Punishers.

  • Health increased from 50 to 200

Aviary & Advanced Air Factory

It’s strange how structures are locked behind the Dreadnaught launch bay and Advanced Assembly despite the units being much weaker than Dreadnaughts. Having to invest in the Dreadnaught Launch bay is too costly and makes going for heavy air units too risky. Removing the build restrictions will open up these structures and create more strategic diversity and with the nerfs to Strategic Bomber and buffs to AA, this will be necessary to make these structures viable. The build time is also too long.

Advanced Sky Factory

  • Now only requires Air Factory
  • Build time reduced from 80 to 60

Aviary

  • Now only requires Assembly and Quantum Relay
  • Build time reduced from 80 to 60

Sensor Array and Listening Post [Experimental, not so important]

The radar towers are often neglected due to only providing minimal detection range, yet their negligible cost never makes them a strategic decision. Increasing the performance of radar range makes them desirable; revealing enemy movements will create a fun dynamic of outmaneuvering your opponent and attacking and defending becomes more reactive. The range increase also makes investing in radar range upgrades worthwhile, where currently the opportunity cost of Quanta is too valuable.

Increasing their cost and lowering health will make Radar Towers a strategic investment which form as a contention for the players and incentivise bombing runs.

  • Radar radius increased from 1800 to 2500
  • Radioactives cost increased from 20 to 80

Sensor Array

· Health reduced from 600 to 300

Listening Post

· Shields reduced from 500 to 200

· Health reduced from 200 to 100

· Metal cost increased from 80 to 120 (To match Sensor Tower)

Orbital Buildings:

The prices for Orbital structures is extremely inconsistent and does not reflect their value. This results in little player decision making, lack of strategic diversity and the late game tech tree being too inaccessible. Some buildings have negligible costs and are built with no consideration, while the higher tier Orbital Structures cost an insane amount and are mostly neglected as a result. While it makes sense for more potent structures to cost more, in practise these structures cost too much when combined with how expensive the units they unlock are. For example, an Air Eliminator costs 450/600 on top of the 640/360 cost of the weapons Lab. Likewise the requirement for Orbital Bombardment and Detonate doesn’t need to be so costly given that they cost a whopping 400 Quanta.

There is also a discrepancy between the costs for PHC and Substrate, where Substrate suffer due to a far higher Radioactives cost but less Metal. Substrate are more Radioactives intensive for PHC for a few other reasons, so this can be quite crippling.

Orbital Fabricator

  • Radioactives cost increased from 10 to 100
  • Metal cost reduced from 400 to 380
  • Build time increased from 20 seconds to 30

Power Regulator

  • Metal cost increased from 60 to 250

Energy Projector

  • Metal cost increased from 140 to 260
  • Build time decreased from 35 to 30

Weapons Lab

  • Metal cost reduced from 640 to 500
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 360 to 300
  • Build time decreased from 60 to 50

Orbital Command

  • Build time decreased from 120 to 80
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 1200 to 600

Energy Modulator

  • Metal cost increased from 120 to 280
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 240 to 80

Gateway

  • Metal cost increased from 240 to 350
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 200 to 100
  • Build time increased from 20 to 30

Orbital Drone Relay

  • Metal cost increased from 240 to 500
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 450 to 300

Subspace Streamer

  • Build time decreased from 140 to 80
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 1150 to 650

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Base Defenses

Base Defenses dictate far too much of Ashes; their potency stagnates the game by easily locking down sectors of the map early on for cheap and create a long, tedious and ineffective dynamic of trying to clear them out. There is also a huge discrepancy between the potency of base defenses, mainly favouring Substrate. The following changes close the gap in performance, but also distinguish the different types of anti-air defense.

Most of the base defenses suffer from a minimum range which prevents them from firing at enemy units which are too close. At first glance, players would assume this is a bug (I did) because the animations and models of the defenses don’t display any reason why these defenses would be unable to attack things up close. Instead the turrets just sit there, with the weapon pointed at the enemy but not firing for a seemingly arbitrary reason. The minimum range which many defenses suffer from don’t add anything to the game other than frustration and confusion when a player's defenses stop firing and they have no idea why.

  • All base defenses have their minimum range removed (Apart from Artillery post and Drone MRV/Shredder)

Smarty System

The Smarty System is very weak and has pitiful damage, it pales in comparison to the Annihilator.

  • Health increased from 600 to 900
  • Damage doubled

Barrager

The Barrager is in a weird spot where it has so much durability with 95% damage reduction, yet its damage is lacklustre. To give it more consistent performance I am exchanging some of its armour for damage

  • Armour reduced from 20 to 14 (95% to 70% damage reduction)
  • Weapon damage increased by 50%

PHC Artillery Post

While the nerfs in 2.03 help the Artillery Post more balanced, it is still quite overpowered. From a design perspective, it feels less like an Artillery, and more like a ultra long range base defense. In order to make it feel more like a proper artillery unit, it should have its projectile speed lowered and be less accurate to make it weaker vs mobile armies but still as powerful vs buildings and static armies. The range is also just too high, when Substrate has no equivalent and there is no shield structures like in Supreme Commander to absorb the shells

  • Projectile speed lowered to 33% of its current speed.
  • Accuracy reduced to make it weaker vs mobile armies.
  • Range lowered from 3500 to 3000
  • Damaged lowered from 300 to 250

Drone Bay

The Drone Bay and Repair are both far too cheap for the impact they have. They overshadow all other PHC base defense once they are unlocked.

  • Metal cost increased from 240 to 350

Repair Bay

  • Metal cost increased from 140 to 300

Annihilator

The Annihilator and Heavy Annihilator are so cheap yet dish out insane amounts of damage, stopping armies many times over their cost.

  • Damage reduced by 33%
  • Metal cost increased from 180 to 200

Heavy Annihilator

  • Damage reduced by 33%
  • Metal cost increased from 240 to 300

Disruptor Cannon

The Disruptor Cannon was too durable for its damage output. It would take almost a minute and a half for an Artemis to destroy it.

  • Health Reduced from 4000 to 3000 (Also has 2000 Shields)

Drone MRV

The Drone MRV costs very low metal but high Radioactives, making is rather inaccessible. It could also do with a bit more health so it’s not destroyed by Artillery units so easily.

  • Metal cost increased from 160 to 260
  • Radioactives cost reduced from 180 to 130
  • Shields increased from 300 to 500

Shredder Turret

  • Shields increased from 300 to 500

Blossom Launcher

There is no reason why the Blossom Launcher costs Radioactives when the Constable doesn’t. This is another example of why Substrate is unnecessarily more radioactives intensive than PHC, and makes balance inconsistent on map types.

  • Radioactives cost of 30 removed
  • Metal cost increased from 160 to 220
  • Shields reduced from 1500 to 1000
  • Build time reduced from 40 to 35 (Constable is 30)

Skyender

Skyender is incredibly underwhelming with only 100DPS, it doesn’t compare at all to Starburst or Air Eliminator despite costing so much radioactives. The armour piercing makes it anti-heavy air while the Starburst is suited for anti-light air due to its splash damage and cheaper cost.

  • Damage increased by 600%
  • Ranged increased from 1500 to 1800
  • AOE reduced from 150 to 120
  • Build time reduced from 240 to 160


Starburst

The changes in 2.03 have overbuffed the Starburst which now insanely overperforms compared to the far more expensive Starburst and Air Eliminator.

  • Damage reduced from 200 to 50

Constable

The Constable is too fragile compared to the Blossom Launcher and with little damage, it is easily taken out by Bombers.

  • Health increased from 900 to 1200
  • Damage increased from 75 to 100

Falcon Anti-Air

The Falcon Anti-Air is so weak that there is no reason for players to go for it compared to the Air Eliminator or just spamming Constables. It will still remain unique to the Air Eliminator because of its Splash damage compared to the single target damage of the more powerful Air Eliminator

  • Health increased from 900 to 2700
  • Armour increased to give 50% damage reduction
  • Damage output increased to 240%
  • Rate of fire increased to 133%
  • Cost increased from 150/30 to 400/150
  • Build time increased from 45 to 90

Air Eliminator

The Air Eliminator suffers from inconsistent durability due to low health, but high armour. This leaves it unkillable with standard damage but too vulnerable against Armour Piercing attacks such as Artemis or Destructor.

  • Armour reduced from 20 to 12 (95% to 60% damage reduction)
  • Health increased from 1500 to 4000
  • Build time reduced from 240 to 160

Sentinel

The Sentinel was too durable compared to other base defenses, especially given its high damage.

  • Health reduced from 4500 to 3500

Oblivion

The Oblivion was suffering from inconsistent survivability; less health but more armour actually makes it weaker than the Sentinel against armour piercing attacks such as Artemis and Disruptor, the units which are normally killing them.

  • Armour reduced from 20 to 12 (95% to 60% damage reduction)
  • Health increased from 3000 to 4000

Pulverizer

Given that traditional counters to base defenses such as Artemis and Destructor are ineffective against the Pulverizer and Exterminator due to being out ranged, the they need their durability lower to make countering it more balanced and fair as well as putting it in-line with the Sentinel and Oblivion.

  • Shields reduced from 4000 to 2500 (Has 1000 health)

Exterminator Turret

  • Health reduced from 6000 to 3000 (has 1200 Shields)

Regenerator

The Regenerator seems like a potent choice, but being locked behind the most expensive tech building, the Subspace Streamer, makes this building rarely used. Moving the tech requirements to the Energy Modular will make the Regenerator arrive at a more suitable time, but it also more intuitive and thematic to the role of the structure.

  • Tech requirements moved from Subspace Streamer to Energy Modular

Emergency & Serpentine Turrets

Deploying Emergency and Serpentine Turrets as soon as the game started allowed players to double cap territory.

  • Now Require Quantum Relay or Quantum Archive

Orbitals

Drone Swarm

Drone Swarm is not just overpowered, it’s an inconsistent and frustrating ability. The drones die very fast to anti-air, but if an army has no anti-air the drones will completely murder them since they have high damage, can chase units down and last a long time.

  • Increase Quanta cost from 200 to 250

________________________________________________

(Not Implemented)

  • Lower life span of to 40 seconds (negative regenerating health?)
  • Lower damage vs buildings by 25%
  • Double drone health (All Drones should have their health buffed)

Nano-Mesh Armour [not implemented]

Nano-Mesh Armour is a very cheesy ability. It is a no-brainer for Dreadnaughts which drastically increases their survivability, while it can be incredibly abusive on the Zeus combined with Medics and the inability to manually target units. If a Zeus has the Nano-Mesh armour and it has Medics healing it, it is practically unkillable from all attacks other than

Full armour Piercing like a Nemesis. When armies are formed, players are not able to target fire specific units which prevents them from focusing the medics or the supporting frigates, which effectively can make an army with  a Nano-Mesh Armour Zeus unkillable due to the limitations imposed on by the player. Nano-Mesh Armour should be reworked to make it a more consistent and a less frustrating ability. The two possible solutions I have in mind which would fix this are:

  • Change the single target bonus to a small amount of armour to all units in an area [or]
  • Change its bonus from 2000 health instead of +8 armour.

Call Engineer

Call Engineer is too cheap for how much value it can provide.

  • Quanta cost increased from 30 to 50


EMP Pulse

The EMP Pulse is too powerful for only 100 Quanta, especially as many core Substrate units such as Mauler have only a fraction of their health as they do Shields. The damage should also be reduced so it’s not so potent versus Dreadnaughts and Heavy Air Units.

  • Quanta cost increased from 100 to 150
  • Damage reduced from 10,000 to 2000

Nano-Transport

Just like the Charon, Nano-Transport is an overpriced ability which is completely neglected.

  • Quanta cost reduced from 300 to 200

Plasma Storm

Plasma storm is able to decimate entire armies on its own. With the cost reductions to Weapons Lab and Drone Swarm cost increase, Plasma Storm needs its cost increased.

  • Quanta cost increased from 200 to 250

Kill

Kill is far too powerful. It can takes a very long time and amount of resources produce a Dreadnaught, they shouldn’t be countered instantly by an ability. Kill will still remain powerful vs Dreadnaughts, but now there is opportunity to pull back a wounded Dreadnaught.

  • Damage reduced from 10,000 to 7000

Nano Mesh Armour

Nano Mesh armour can be very exploitative in certain scenarios, especially combined with Medics and how Substrate don’t have anti armour units until Eradicator or Punisher. It is also a no brainer ability when applied to Dreadnaughts. We are working on a way to make it perform more consistently and less exploitative such as giving it health instead of armour or making it a small armour buff in an area. Either of these approaches will take time to develop unlike most changes which are as easy to implement as tweaking numbers in a line. In the meantime, we are increasing the cost of Nano Mesh Armour to mitigate abuse.

  • Quanta cost increased from 50 to 100

Beyond Version 2.2

We are play-testing the Juggernauts, or I should say, the first two (one PHC, one Substrate).  They will be released for free but we will be releasing Episode 3 at the same time which will be DLC.    The Juggernauts/Episode 3 are currently on track for May.  Why not April?  April is pretty booked right now for us.  Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion anniversary edition is nearly done and we will be getting close to the release of Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade.  But there might be a version 2.3 in-between with additional balance, modding, performance and bug fixes that come in.

So that's all for now! Let us know what you think.


ONE COMMUNITY: Merging the Singularity

Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2017 By Draginol

image

By definition, there can only be one singularity.

[[..]]

Ashes of the Singularity and Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation are being merged.  There will be only one game: Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation.

Everyone who already has Ashes of the Singularity will also have Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation. 

To understand why we have decided to do this a little background on the development of Ashes of the Singularity is needed...

image

Once upon a time...

Ashes of the Singularity is a massive-scale, real-time strategy game.  It was also the very first DirectX 12 game and the very first game on any platform with a multi-core AI.   Its technological innovation resulted in a lot of media coverage but the purpose was so that we could create a new type of RTS: One that could simulate tens of thousands of individual units.   But as you can guess, that capability came with a price:  The hardware requirements.

Because of the hardware requirements, our primary concern with the game's design was to appeal to the widest possible audience of strategy game player.  We couldn't afford to alienate potential players by making the game too "hard-core". 

During the beta, there were frequent, passionate arguments on certain features.  Specifically:

  1. Strategic Zoom (ala Sins of a Solar Empire, Supreme Commander, GalCiv, etc.)

  2. Upgradeable defenses (turrets that could be upgraded to more powerful versions)

  3. A lot more unit classes.

And each time, we rejected these requests not because we disagreed with them (Stardock, after all, has strategic zoom in Galactic Civilizations, Sins of a Solar Empire, Fallen Enchantress, etc.).  We rejected them because we were concerned that these features would make the game too "niche".

Ashes-5K-Mega

 

Release

Within a month of the release of Ashes of the Singularity, the game's sales were twice what we had expected.  As exciting as that news was for us, it was also very concerning because it indicated that our projection model was completely off.  Ashes of the Singularity required a CPU with 4 cores (most people only had 2) and a video card with 2GB of memory.

I want to contrast the hardware requirements with our other real-time strategy game: Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion.  1 CPU core, 256MB of video memory.

In addition to selling a lot more than anticipated, the requests for the aforementioned 3 features became increasingly vigorous.  At this point, we were still persuaded that the market for a hard-core RTS was not sufficient to add those features to the base game.  Instead, we would create a stand-alone expansion pack for those players.

 

EscalationChart

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Escalation

In November,  we released Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation to universally positive reviews.  The lowest score it received was 75 and the user ratings as I write this are classified as "Very Positive".  We also provided a $20 upgrade path for those who wanted to go get the expansion.

However, many of our customers were not happy. 

First, many people who bought Ashes of the Singularity paid $49.99.  Thus, even a $20 discount to get "the game they wanted in the first place" seemed unfair to them.

Second, and more seriously, it split the community.

Esc_SS1

 

 

One game, two communities?

As many of you know, Stardock is one of the oldest independent game studios in the industry.  I own it.  And I try to interact directly with our customers through a variety of forums.  As a result, we have the luxury of making decisions that may have some short-term pain but result in long-term success.  The secret of Stardock's success is simple: We generally do whatever it takes to make our customers happy.

Coming from the software side, having a standard and a Pro version of your product isn't a big deal.  But in the gaming world, especially recently, it is a big problem and one that has proven impossible for us to bridge.

For example, even if we solved the multiplayer community fragmentation, what about modding? What about community discussions on strategy and tactics? What about future expansions?

Hence, I have decided to merge Ashes of the Singularity and Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation into a single product: Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation.   We will update the game to have a "simplified rules" option for those who do preferred the more streamlined game mechanics and unit types (anyone who has ever tried to get a LAN party going with an RTS knows what I mean) but going forward, Escalation is the only version of the game.

The base game will be discontinued.  If you have a copy of it,  you  can still play it and we will still support it.  But we won't be selling it anymore.  Everyone who had Ashes of the Singularity now has Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation as well.  And anyone who already upgraded to Escalation from Ashes now has an automatic season pass to the DLC for Escalation.

By merging the products, we add over a hundred thousand people into the Escalation multiplayer pool, modding community, forums and allows us to focus all our attention on Escalation.

If you have any questions, you can contact me directly on Twitter @draginol or on our forums at www.ashesofthesingularity.com.

I'll see you online!

-brad

 

Esc_SS2

 

FAQ

Q: Why didn't you just have the features in Escalation in the base game?
A: Because at the time of release, 40% or so of the Steam user base couldn't even run the base game.  Anything that made the game more of a "niche" seemed to be risky.

Q: Why do you think Ashes sold so much better than you expected?
A: Most of our demographic data comes from Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations and those indicate most strategy game players tend to have more modest PC setups. However, power gamers, for lack of a better term, tend to have higher end PCs than expected and Ashes appeals to power gamers more so than our other titles.

Q: What made you decide Escalation was the future and not the base game?
A: The player stats.  Despite having a much smaller base (it just came out recently) Escalation has more people playing it.  From a long-term point of view, an engaged user base is critical.

Q: You spoke about modding, what is your modding goal with Ashes?
A: Ashes of the Singularity was the first game to utilize Oxide's new, state-of-the-art engine, Nitrous.  It was the first DirectX 12 game and soon will be the first game to support both Vulkan and DirectX 12 simultaneously.  Thus, in many respects, Ashes was designed to be a platform. Our goal is for someone to be able to mod Ashes into virtually any type of game.

Q: What is the next expansion pack going to focus on?
A: Naval units.

Q: When will we see Escalation in our Steam account?
A: Now. It has been automatically added to your account.

Q: If I purchased from Stardock (not Steam), do I need to get a new Steam Key from my account?
A: No, you do not need a new key. The upgrade will be done through Steam automatically.

Q: What does a season pass mean?
A: It means all new DLC we release for the game this year will automatically be added to that player's account.

Q: What types of DLC are you working on?
A: We're working on Episode 3 which is a new campaign along with new maps, scenarios and game modes.

Q: What updates are in the works?
A: We have replays almost ready, a new class of units: Juggernauts (similar to Titans from Sins of a Solar Empire), a mod manager, more single player AI updates, mass-multiplayer performance and stability improvements, and much more.

Q: What types of changes can we expect in the future of this game?
A: Lots of new types of units including organics, the aforementioned naval units, tracked, walking, more flying units, etc. 

Q: Right now, the units hover, why is that?
A: We had concerns regarding the CPU requirements for path finding tens of thousands of units.  Hover units have the advantage of being able to duck above or below other units.  As we get more data on the hardware our players have, we will be able to introduce other types of locomotion.  Plus, hover units look super cool. [e digicons]:)[/e]

Q: With the merging of Escalation, who is the target market?
A: People who are familiar with real-time strategy games.  We do plan to provide simplified rule options for newcomers (useful for LAN parties and such).


DEV DIARY ESCALATION #1: The great map rebalance!

Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2017 By Frogboy

Greetings!

I’d like to introduce you to Callum McCole.  You’ll be hearing about him a lot in the coming months as I have asked him to take an ever great role in helping me on design elements of Ashes of the Singularity.  He runs the popular RTS YouTube channel, General’s Gentlemen.

As an RTS player of many years, I have often lamented when game developers fail to make the most use of the RTS community when it comes to design and balance that can be helpful both for the expert players as well as newcomers.  I have seen people make this wish so often that I suspect many of you will be surprised that we have fulfilled that wish.

The upcoming version 2.1 of Escalation will be the first to have the beginnings of his efforts starting with the great map rebalance.

In his own words:

 

Fixed Maps:

 

Canopus

Canopus is a 3 player map which is currently in the 1v1 map pool. It features incredibly narrow choke points with only a single path into the player's base and a small centre area with a mountain making the centre impassable. This is bad for gameplay since there’s no room for flanking or aggressive maneuvers, the game rapidly because stagnant and just about spamming defenses. The tight narrow chokepoints create problems for pathfinding and the balance is ruined by the unflankable PHC Artillery Turret.

Canopus also has a disproportionately high amount of Radioactives compared to Metal.

Changes Applied:

  • Create additional routes between each peninsula to allow for more strategic diversity and flanking routes
  • Reduced the size of the impassable terrain in the middle
  • Added a metal relay in the middle of the outer pathways

Old: New:

clip_image002

Ceres

Ceres is a great map as it is, but it suffered from not having a second set of Metal deposits near the base. Adding in additional Metal deposits makes map control more strategic, which is important for a map that is so small.

Changes Applied:

  • Added two metal deposits to one of the nearby empty relays

Old: New:

clip_image004

Deneb

Deneb is the most asymmetric map in the 1v1 map pool; while an asymetric map looks pretty and is interesting if done right, the current implementation of Deneb is imbalanced in favour of the left side due to the following issues.

  1. The left side has an additional Metal relay
  2. Southwards expansion on the right side is hindered by Turinium Generators.
  3. The Central mountain has two attack paths onto the right side, but only one for the left.

Balance aside, Deneb has a disproportionately low amount of Radioactives compared to Metal. This limits strategic diversity and generally favours PHC who are less radioactives intensive than Substrate.

Changes Applied:

  • Reworked the terrain layout in order to be more symmetrical
  • Symmetrized the resource layout to be fair and balanced for both sides
  • Replaced the side Turinium Generators with Radioactives
  • Centralised Turinium generators to make Turinium acquisition more viable

Old: New:

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Knife Fight

Knight Fight is an extremely linear map, with only a single pathway through the centre of the map from which all points are connected. This results in little strategic diversity and no room for flanking and tactical manoeuvres. Knife Fight should have additional pathways opened up along the sides with the points being connected to allow for more tactics and attack paths. The south spawn also suffers from the first two relays being further away from the Nexus than the North spawn.

Changes Applied:

  • Equalised the travel time from starting locations to first two resource points
  • Opened up an additional pathway on the sides of the map
  • Opened up an additional pathway on the top and bottom of the map
  • Connected the resources points on the sides of the map

Old: New:

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Monaco

Monaco only has two pathways across the map with Starting Locations situated incredibly close to each other. This makes the map easy too easy to lock down with static defenses, while the close proximity of spawns allows for Artillery Posts to directly siege the opponent's Nexus from the safety of their own. Lastly, having two “safe” Turinium generators on each side of the middle prevents Turinium from being accumulated. 

Changes Applied:

  • Moved player starting locations to map corners
  • Reshuffled some of the resource layout to replicate a more standard starting location
  • Created a wide Pathway in the centre of the map
  • Centralised all the Turinium Generators to make acquiring Turinium more viable

Old: New:

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Regulus

Having only a single attack route onto the other half of the map means static defenses easily lock down and prevent any aggression, creating a long, slow  grind to break through the enemy defenses with no potential for flanking. This inherently favours PHC, who have access to the Artillery post. Regulus needs additional pathways across the map to allow for more maneuvering.

Changes Applied:

  • Created a pathway at the top and bottom of the map with an empty relay
  • Moved the starting locations to map corners to account for additional pathways

Old: New:

clip_image012

Ulrich

Without any central Path, players can only fight each other via the sides of the map, when combined with how Ulrich is a very large map for 1v1 given its medium size, this makes the map feel very slow. Having only two attack paths on opposite ends of the map can can result in players attacking each other on opposite sides and having their armies completely avoid this other, creating a base trade situation. This is not a very fun dynamic, players should have more opportunity to move their forces around the map and be able to better respond to attacks.

Secondly, having two easily defensible Generators on each side of the map results in Turinium rarely being generated for a player.

Changes Applied:

  • Created a pathway between the centre of the map
  • The middle now only has a single centered Turinium Generator
  • Added Metal Deposits onto one of the empty relays near the starting locations

Old: New:

clip_image014

 

Adjusted Turinium Requirements

 

The Turinium Requirements in Ashes are not only vastly inconsistent, they are also too high. Almost all games will come down to annihilation of the enemy, with Turinium levels being ignored and neglected. Turinium Generators are still actively contested due to the additional resources they provide, but Turinium as a victory condition is not providing any strategic diversity and consideration from players.

I have standardised the Turinium levels on the current and future ranked maps, lowering the Turinium requirements where it is too high and making it more consistent. I used 500/750/1000 as the basis for Tiny/Small/Medium maps, but varied it slightly depending on how difficult Turinium acquisition is on those maps.

Maps:

Players

Size

Old Turinium

New Turinium

Bis

4

Tiny

600

600

Frosthaven

2

Tiny

500

500

Knife Fight

2

Tiny

750

500

Kralon

2

Tiny

2000

500

Monaco

2

Tiny

1000

750

Proxima

4

Tiny

2000

600

Spica

3

Tiny

1500

600

Thuban

4

Tiny

750

600

Ceres

2

Tiny

750

500

Canopus

3

Small

1000

750

Cygnus

2

Small

1500

750

Deneb

2

Small

1500

750

Maurn

2

Small

1500

750

Pyn

2

Small

1500

600

Regulus

2

Small

1000

750

Turtuga

4

Small

1500

750

Vega

2

Small

2500

600

Rus

2

Small

1000

750

Pulaski

4

Medium

2000

1000

Ulrich

2

Medium

1000

750

Italia

2

Medium

1500

1000

Espana

2

Medium

2500

1000

New Ranked Map Pool

The following maps are suggested for the next ranked map pool, assuming that these maps are updated with the above adjustments. While this map pool has small and medium maps, it is mainly skewed towards tiny. Some players don’t like the faster pace of tiny maps, preferring the more forgiving pace of medium, but those players are more likely to be playing more casual team games instead of 1v1’s, so it wouldn’t make sense to tailor the map pool around those types of players. If Ashes had a map veto system, that would give more flexibility to add more maps of different types.

Map

Size

Turinium Requirements

Bis

Tiny

600

Ceres

Tiny

500

Frosthaven

Tiny

500

Knife Fight

Tiny

500

Proxima

Tiny

600

Spica

Tiny

600

Deneb

Small

750

Cygnus

Small

750

Pyn

Small

600

Rus

Small

750

Italia

Medium

1000

Espana

Medium

1000

 

You are welcome to comment on these changes. We hope to release v2.1 quite soon.


MERGING the SINGULARITY

Posted on Monday, February 06, 2017 By Draginol

Exis_Render_Template_1080P_11

Our story so far...

Stardock loves real-time strategy games.  Our customers love real-time strategy games (Sins of a Solar Empire remains our best selling game of all time).  And we want your opinion on something important to us.

When Stardock sold off its digital distribution business to GameStop in 2011, we took that capital to help found a number of new studios including Soren Johnson's Mohawk Games, Mothership Entertainment, Stardock Towson and Oxide Games.  Our goal was to build new technology and studios that would create innovative new games.

In short, we've been pretty busy.

Ashes of the Singularity: A background

Of these new games, the first to ship was Ashes of the Singularity.  It is the first game to use the new Nitrous engine developed by Oxide Games. 

Nitrous is an amazing engine and all our new games are standardizing on it.  What makes it special is that it is core-neutral. That is, the more CPU cores you have, the more it can do.  It scales almost linearly as you can more CPU cores.  This means we can do interesting things like object space lighting, handle thousands of light sources, do all kinds of interesting things with AI,  simulations, etc.

Since Ashes of the Singularity was the first engine to use it, we were cautious as to how much we would invest into the game itself.  Nitrous is amazing but it was new. And the things we were trying to do had never been done before.  There was no DirectX 12 or Vulkan when we started working on it.  We were building it based on the theory that such a graphics platform would have to be made and got super lucky that they were made before the game shipped. 

On DirectX 11, you need a pretty powerful machine to run Ashes of the Singularity (on DirectX 12 or later Vulkan, you can run it on a potato practically, that's how much better DX12/Vulkan are).

But, like I said, there was no DirectX 12 or Vulkan back then so we designed the game to appeal to as many people as possible while still showing off what the engine could do. If all went well, the game would sell around 50,000 units in its first year.  That would be a very respectable release for a game that could only run on a fraction of the PCs available at the time.

DirectX 12

I can't even begin to tell you how much of a game-changer DirectX 12 was.  Suddenly, this game that was going to require a monster machine to run could run on much more reasonable hardware.  That's because DirectX 12 lets every CPU core talk to the graphics card at the same time.  On DirectX 11, only 1 CPU core can talk to the GPU at once.   As some may recall, people were dubious about the game's benchmark results on DirectX 12.  But as people quickly saw, it was a massive difference.

 

Who is the target market?

During the early access program, there requests, often strident, for features that we felt would alienate the mainstream gamers.  While we personally liked the features they wanted (upgradeable defenses, strategic zoom, more unit progress, etc.) we felt that this would create a learning curve that would keep us from even getting to the mere 50,000 units we hoped to sell to break even.

Ashes-5K-Boom

Ashes delivered massive-scale warfare across a planet

Release

When the game shipped, it quickly reached a user base of over a hundred thousand players not counting the hundreds of thousands of players who got the game as part of their video card purchase. 

It also became apparent that many of them wanted an RTS a lot more depth where depth meant things like strategic zoom, upgradeable defenses, more resources, lots more unit classes, etc.  But doing so, we felt, would be a bait-and-switch.  I realize that some hard-core RTS fans can't imagine not wanting to have dozens of unit types but as someone who has tried and failed to get their friends to play FAF, learning curve matters.

So we decided to create a new SCU for those players who wanted a "bigger" RTS.  Escalation.

 

Esc_SS2

Escalation caters to the more dedicated RTS fan.  Strategic Zoom, Upgradeable defenses,  Specialized units

Divergence

Last fall, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation was released.  It's a stand-alone game with an $20 upgrade price for people who have the base game.  It got universally favorable reviews (lowest review being a 75) in the media and has a 81 Steam score. 

Meanwhile, the base game didn't fare as well . A lot a lot of passionate RTS players who had lobbied for what was in Escalation felt they were being asked to pay again for the game they wanted in the first place. Thus, the base's games Steam score went from "Mostly Positive" to something like "This game will kill  your pets" on Steam even though the game has continued to get frequent updates, new units, etc.

image

One engine: Two games.  The base game for the mainstream and Escalation for the dedicated RTS fanbase. Which game do people want us to focus our energy on?

Merging

And so here we are with the debate unresolved.  Which kind of RTS do people want us to focus on?  In the long-run, we need to focus on one RTS.

So here is the plan: Let the market decide. 

What we want to do is give everyone who bought the game in early access or earlier a copy of Escalation (provided Steam and GOG are okay with this).   Everyone who bought the upgrade from Ashes to Escalation will get a season pass to the DLC we're adding to Escalation.

Then, with user bases a bit more equal, we can see which game people prefer.  Let the players choose which game they prefer based on what they actually play. 

EscalationChart

Feature difference between the two.

 

The Long-Term plan

The game's hardware requirements today (4 core CPU, 2GB of video memory, 1920x1080 resolution min) ensure that it won't be a mass market game either way for some time.  And we are fine with that.  In the not-so-distant future, these hardware requirements will be mainstream and by that point, both games will have evolved.

The base game will evolve so that it becomes easier to pick up and play. The price will continue to get reduced.  The unit mix will continue to evolve (i.e.  we may replace units with better, more interesting ones but keep the unit count reasonable).  It'll still get new races to play, new campaigns and so on.  But the game play will focus on being intuitive.

Escalation will evolve to have more depth. Naval units, additional resources, lots more units, more tech progression. 

There is a case to be made for both.  It'll be interesting to see which one becomes dominant.

 

Esc_SS1

Escalation provides many more types of units and defenses to craft ever more sophisticated strategies

The question for you:

Which game fits you the best? The base game or Escalation? And why?


ASHES DEV UPDATE: February 2017

Posted on Friday, February 03, 2017 By Draginol

Esc_wall-1

Greetings!

February is here and there is a ton of stuff to talk about.

[..]

## VULKAN ##

We have been working diligently on Vulkan support and I am pleased to tell you that we have it...mostly working.  We are tentatively scheduled to release Escalation v2.1 (Ashes 1.51) on February 16.   Unfortunately, Vulkan won't make it in there as it needs a little more time to bake.

## REPLAYS ##

We have this.  It's not super stable though so we're still working out the kinks.  We expect to have an opt-in build available within the next couple weeks so people can play around with it.    We've been working with General's Gentlemen on the design of this feature so that it will appeal not just to those who want to see a replay of their game but also for casters who want to cast games.

## MODDING ##

I have an Ashes modding Skype channel where we're bouncing ideas around.  There is a fine line between "modding" and "end user customization".  As someone who started out as a modder, I tend to take a bit of a dim view on modders who think they have to have commercial grade tools in order to make changes. 

Making front ends to XML and CSV files is not super high on my priority list.  I expect modders to be able to do this sort of thing.

What I don't expect modders to have to do is: Reverse engineer the .OXModel format or hack the EXE to change game rules.

So on our end these are the tools that are in development:

Mod Manager.  This will let you create your own mod in \documents\my games\ashes..\mods where you will have a file a .ashesmod file (i.e.bradsbalancemod.ashesmod).

This file is a manifest for your mod tells the game where to look for your other files.

There are FOUR files I mod all the time for personal use:

  1. WeaponMOdulesTemplates.csv
  2. UniteTeampltes.csv
  3. BuildingTemplates.csv
  4. DefaultPlayerAI.xml

You can mod those files right now and drastically change the way Ashes plays.

Anyway, you can create your own versions of these files, put them in your mod folder and then have your .ashesmod point to them.  When the game sees a duplicate Internal ID, it'll replace the one in game with yours.

If you're into modding, you can practice this now by modifying one or more of the files there locally and see what crazy things happen.

 

## LOCALIZATION ##

Ashes is coming to a lot of new languages.  This will start with the big 2.1 (1.51) update.

Esc_SS6

## MERGING CODE BASES ##

For easier maintenance, Ashes of the Singularity and Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation are going to have their code-bases merged.

Thus, the base game will pick up a lot of the enhancements that are in Escalation (visual updates, engine update, UI update, etc.).

Escalation will have everything Ashes has plus:

  1. Strategic Zoom
  2. The New units
  3. Volcanic Maps (These will be made available as DLC for Ashes players)
  4. Crystaline maps (This will be made available as DLC for Ashes players)
  5. Escalation Campaign
  6. Upgradeable Defenses

The goal is that we want Ashes of the Singularity to be the "mainstream" game and Escalation be the hard-core game.  This frees us to continue to evolve Escalation in ways that would likely be unappealing to mainstream RTS fans (more resource types, more unit types, deeper economic features, etc.).

And just to drive home the point how serious we are on this: We plan to give everyone who was part of the early access program a free license of Escalation (that's about 100,000 free licenses).

Anyone who has upgraded to Escalation already or does so before we do this will get a lifetime pass Escalation DLC.  And those who were part of our Lifetime Ashes Founder's program will be truly getting a lifetime pass to Ashes such as sequels. :)

So if you were part of early access and haven't upgraded to Escalation, you'll want to do that before we do this.

As many of you know, the base game sold a lot more than we had anticipated.  Remember: RTS games are supposedly "dead" and only MOBAs have a market.  Combined with our hardware requirements, we presumed about 50,000 units in the first year.

Thus, putting Escalation and the base game on equal footing, we can see which game has more players.  Ashes or Escalation.  I know you hard-core RTS players are convinced that Escalation will win.  Don't be so sure.  I love them both but it's Ashes, not Escalation, that my friends tend to prefer for LAN parties due to the relative simplicity.

In short: If you were part of the Ashes early access program (or likely bought soon after it came out) you will soon have an Escalation key too.  Play whichever one you prefer. The market will decide which path the RTS community wants us to follow.

## JUGGERNAUTS ##

In the "not a promise" category, Episode 3 is well into development.   While Episode 3 will be DLC, Juggernauts will be a free unit added to the game.  Each side will get one and they'll appear in Episode 3. The base game, btw, will be getting Juggernauts too as they make a satisfying doomsday weapon.

Right now, I have early Spring as the release date for this.  

 

## BEYOND JUGGERNAUTS ##

Where Escalation focused on making the game...well bigger, the next major area of focus is going to be water and naval.   That doesn't mean it's the next thing on the list as we have a long list of things we want in this game first ranging from wrecks to more types of units to more single player and multiplayer replayability features (I'll be talking more about this in the near future).

The one thing that we are excited about the most and that we hope we can persuade you to be excited about is that this game is still at the start of its life.  Go look at every other RTS on the market.  Go.  I'll wait.

Are you back?

Ok, I will keep nagging about this but it is non-trivial to make a major RTS.  Even Microsoft struggles with it (Halo Wars for instance).  It is tough.  And here we are (you guys and us) with a fresh engine designed specifically for RTS games that supports DirectX 12, Vulkan and as many CPU cores as you can throw at it.  Right now, that's all really just potential.  But as any SupCom player can tell you, the tech does matter because it determines the long-term evolution of the game.

So that's all for this month. 

Cheers!

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