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Ashes: Escalation and Sins: Rebellion Weekend Community Events

Published on Friday, November 10, 2017 By Island Dog In Stardock Journals

There are a couple of community events happening this weekend for Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion! 

We have an Events page that highlights current events, videos, reviews, and more! Be sure to check that page each week as we add items often.

https://www.stardock.com/games/events

Detail for both the community events are there, so check them out!

 

A Guided Tour of Star Control: Origins BETA 1

Published on Friday, November 10, 2017 By Draginol In Star Control Journals

It has been over 20 years since the last Star Control game was released.  Today, we open up Beta 1 of Star Control: Origins in the form of Star Control: Origins - Fleet Battles.

While the main game of Star Control is about exploring the galaxy, meeting various aliens, investigating strange new worlds all within a living universe, we also include a combat mini-game that we call Fleet Battles.  In Fleet battles, you assemble a fleet from a group of ships and then engage in battle with an opponent controlled by the computer, a human online, or a soon to be former friend sitting next to you.

Not only can you take your ships into battle but you can also design your own ships with the in-game Ship Crafting system.  Design your own ships or download ships created by others and see how they perform.

Here is a guided tour of how Fleet Battles works.

Setup

When you load up the game, the "New Game" option is disabled since this first beta focuses strictly on Fleet Battles.  Choose Fleet Battles and you will be presented with this:

setup

Your options are:

  1. Play against the computer
  2. Play against the person sitting next to you (either sharing a keyboard or with a game controller)
  3. Custom match (this will be enabled in Beta-1A) will let you try out your custom designed ships in multiplayer
  4. Unranked play (the game automatically pits you up against someone of similar skill online with the results not being counted)
  5. Ranked play (same as above but your wins and losses are counted so that you can see your relative rank.

Assembling your fleet

Next up, you set up your fleet.  Here you have 100 points to set up a fleet.  Each ship costs a differing number of points.  Think of your fleet as a deck of cards.  Each ship has strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited.

FleetScreen

Into the fire

Once the battle is joined, each commander picks a ship to send into the fight.

image

When one of the ships is destroyed, the losing player picks a new ship.  There is no "perfect" ship for all situations.  A really fast ship is vulnerable to mines and other obstacles.  A ship with a great ranged weapon is often very vulnerable to someone getting in close. 

SCO-b1-1

Each ship to ship battle is relatively short. Maybe a minute or two.   A given fleet might have somewhere between 6 to 12 ships depending on the selections. Thus, a given fleet engagement is typically over in around 10 minutes.

If you play ranked games, you will find yourself slowly going up in rank until you reach a point where your opponents have roughly equal skills as you do.

 battle3

Battle5

Eventually one player will emerge victorious and the cycle repeats.  Unless it's  me and I lose. If that happens then I'm going to toss the floppy disk across the screen and take the game back to Micro World. (editor's note: Brad sometimes forgets that the age of the 1541 is long over)

Crafting

Another cool element of Star Control is the ability to design your own ships.  A big part of the Beta 1 series and our focus on it is to find out what cheese you guys create.  Cheese is a term where someone discovers a loophole in the design and is able to exploit it with deadly effects.  Much of Beta 1 will focus on this as players will create and share their ships online with a warning that "this ship is over powered!".  This is why the multiplayer for custom ships is disabled for the first beta.  We think we've got this covered but we're not positive enough to unleash that on the unsuspecting multiplayer community.

image

Your ship designs are only limited by your imagination.

Battle20

Another ship created by someone with skill.

As you can see, it's pretty easy.  So here is the ship I created:

image

Don't judge me.

You can take your creations and share them online as well as make use of other people's creations.  The system is relatively simple. Pick a ship size which determines what components are available.  Then pick a primary and secondary ability for your ship. Then choose an engine (for max speed) and a thruster (for acceleration).  We will be adding crew and reactors later for providing more control over crew count and max energy.

Once you make your ship, you can play it out in Super-Melee.

image

Battle30

The goal of the Beta 1 series

The goal of the first beta of Star Control: Origins is to help us with balance, compatibility, eliminating cheese tactics and improving the user experience in designing ships and creating fleets.  There will be a lot of changes coming into these betas as we go forward.  For example, additional elements will be added to the combat arena such as salvage, temporary boosts to speed, crew replenishment, Precursor relics that help your entire fleet, etc.  The arena will be randomly chosen at the beginning of the fleet battle and we hope to have many different arenas available (and possibly an arena editor for players).

What we really want to emphasize is: DO NOT assume that beta 1 is representative of the final game.  It is a beta for a reason.  We think most people will really like Beta 1.  But every time I play it, I find something that has to be changed (the look of the planet or the variance in space backgrounds or a sound effect or a weapons effect or the way the planet interacts with something, etc.).  This is where you guys come in: Make sure that the final released version of the game isn't a 1.0 but is more like a 1.5 of a normal game.

Good luck! I'll see you online.

Star Control: BETA 1 schedule

Published on Monday, November 6, 2017 By Draginol In Star Control Journals

imageGreetings!


Beta 1 is fast approaching and we want to give you a tentative schedule of what to expect.


BETA 1: November 16
This is the Super-Melee beta.
Super-Melee is a ship vs. ship combat game. In it, you assemble a fleet of ships. You have a total of 100 points to use for your fleet with ships costing between 5 and 20 points depending on the ship.
You will be able to battle against the computer with various difficulty level or against other players via the Internet in either ranked or unranked play.
The Ship Crafter will also be enabled in Beta 1 (yay!) which means you'll be able to design your own ships and share them via Steam Workshop and play with and against those ships. If you want to play with custom ships, you will be able to choose custom multiplayer where you will see a list of games where the host can set up the rules for that game.

BETA 1A: November 30
This will largely be a bug fix of Beta 1. Our Founders group have done amazing work in helping us iron out connectivity issues, lag, video card compatibility, sound effects, balance, etc.
This beta will about refining the experience. There will be endless "ship X is OP" posts and "game is broke" posts that this Beta 1A will address.

BETA 1B December 14
This will add some new ships to the mix. This build will have more balance and bug fixes too but it's main focus will be to incorporate some of the initial feedback we get. We believe this build will also support local multiplayer (2 people, 1 keyboard) and have refined game controller in.
The general idea is that over Christmas, we want you and your friends to be able to get together and play the game with your Steam/Xbox/PS controllers.
Speaking of friends. We expect to also have the taunting system in for this build.

As it stands now, it is looking like there will be no actual NDA requirement for this builds.  However, we do intend to make a few "hoop jumps" so that players understand that yea, this is really and truly a beta and not a demo.

The Music of Mars

Published on Monday, November 6, 2017 By Tatiora In Offworld Dev Journals

Offworld Trading Company Logo

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
-Berthold Auerbach

When creating a game, there are several pieces that need to fall into place in order to make it a complete package. Obviously, the core concept and gameplay elements need to be there. Then there’s the writing, the overall design, the marketing...and, of course, the score. Mohawk Studios was lucky enough to have Grammy Award winning composer Christopher Tin (Baba Yetu, Civilization IV) on board to compose the music for Offworld Trading Company.

 I corresponded with Christopher Tin through an email interview and gleaned some insight into his creative process, his involvement with Offworld, and his feelings on possibly moving to Mars (Spoiler Alert: it’s an idea he’s not too keen on!).

“I’m so thrilled to be doing Offworld!” Tin said. “While I love that I’m known as the guy who does international music that combines cultures in peace and harmony, I also want to be known as the guy who can write music for craven capitalistic financial dominance.” This statement was followed by a devious “>: )”, of course, which only served to further endear me to the musician. We proceeded to get into the meat of it all with a really awesome Q&A session:

 Q: Let’s start with an easy one! How did you get involved with Offworld Trading Company?

Christopher Tin: Soren (lead designer, President of Mohawk Games)  and I actually have a long history.  We went to Stanford together, and we were roommates when we both did an Oxford overseas studies program.  Our first collaboration was on Civilization IV, for which I wrote the song ‘Baba Yetu’, which is probably best known to gamers as the first video game song to win a Grammy award.  Then when Soren co-founded Mohawk Games, he reached out to me to see if I wanted to be involved in their first game.  The answer was an enthusiastic yes, obviously.

Location Selection - Offworld Trading Company

Q: How has this project differed from others you’ve worked on? How much liberty did you have in what your compositions were?

CT: I think this project was different in that the game was highly playable from the get go, and a good part of me figuring out how to score the game also involved learning how to master playing the game itself.  So I would alternate composing, and then listening to the music I had just written while playing the game.  That way I could test how the rhythms of my music felt, so to speak, against the rhythms of the gameplay.

Q: When you begin a composition, what are deciding factors for you in determining the overall “feel” of a piece? Where exactly do you like to start?

CT: In the case of a game like Offworld, where there isn’t a central story or protagonist in the traditional sense, you have a bit more freedom to get creative with your inspiration.  So in this case, it was the title of the game itself that got my imagination going: “Offworld Trading Company” evoked in my mind the Golden Age of Exploration… think back to the British East India Company or one of those other huge shipping corporations from the Spice Wars of the 16th-century.  

The game itself, though, is thoroughly futuristic.  So I decided that the right approach would be a blend of these two concepts—both the historical, and the futuristic—and call it a retro-futuristic score.  And so the score is almost like a sonic equivalent of a Jules Verne novel.  You have historical elements like the orchestra, but blended with elements that are futuristic, like synthesizers… but not too futuristic!  More like the analog synth sounds that you heard in the 70s, that nowadays evoke a bit of nostalgia for what we used to think the future was going to be.  Again, I wanted to be retro-futurist, not full-on futurist.

Q: How did you discern the tone and overall musical elements for Offworld? 

CT: So now that I had this bigger picture concept of retro-futurism, the specific musical elements have to both achieve this idea, but also serve the mechanics of the game.  And one of the defining aspects of the game is the stock-prices on the left hand side of the screen; they’re sort of the digital equivalent of one of those turn-of-the-century stock tickers that you hear chattering away in old movies.  

Early on, Soren and I agreed that the right type of music for this basic motion is something that was repetitive and pulse based—in my mind it sounded like numbers moving up and down, in a cold and robotic manner.  And so that became the defining musical characteristic—a sense of pulse—to evoke capitalism, industry, and exploration.

Capitalism at Work

Q: How long does it take you to compose a single piece?

CT: It varies.  In some cases I can write very quickly, but in situations where the music is particularly high profile, I like to revise and revise up until the last minute.  Case in point, the main menu title piece 'Red Planet Nocturne' took over thirty attempts before I was able to come up with a melody that I was happy with.  However, that's not to say the actual writing itself took that long—I just really wanted to get it right.  But Soren had a lot to do with that as well; he's a great director of creative talent, and he knows how to push me to write to the best of my ability.  After all, our last collaboration, 'Baba Yetu' from Civilization IV, turned out pretty well!

Q: Are there certain core instrumental sounds that you always start off with and then build out from there?

CT: When you sit at a specific instrument and write, the natural tendency is for your hands to fall into familiar patterns.  When sitting at a piano I reach for certain chord progressions, when at a guitar I reach for others, etc.  So whenever possible I like to mix it up, to keep the creative process fresh.  

Offworld, with its heavy reliance on synthesizers, gave me the opportunity to write in a manner that was totally new to me: by programming the music with computer-based arpeggiators and step-sequencers.  

Essentially what that means is I set up a small plugin on my computer to take what I play on the keyboard—a simple chord, for example--and translate it into a user-generated rhythmic and melodic pattern.  It's a small thing, but adding that extra little interface adds a little bit of authenticity to the way I'm using my synthesizers (historically speaking, before the advent of computers, electronic music was programmed in this manner), and also keeps me aligned with my retro-futurist concept.  I like to think of it as writing music with the help of my own little robotic assistant.

Blast Off - OTC

Q: In a lot of your other work, you utilize vocals. Is there a particular reason you opted to stick with pure instrumentals with Offworld?

CT: I love working with vocalists, but in some cases something purely instrumental is more appropriate.  In the case of the main menu theme, at one point I considered reaching out to various singers to collaborate on a song, but Soren wanted a feeling of claustrophobia and loneliness on the opening menu, and a fragile piano piece wound up capturing that perfectly.  Having a vocalist on the main menu might have injected a bit too much warmth and humanity in the score, when what we really wanted was a sense of coldness.  And so the idea of a piano nocturne was born.

Q: Offworld has a really unique tone that really does make it sound otherworldly. Can you talk a bit about the specific sounds and instruments you used to create that?

CT: Soren and I were both on the same page when we decided we wanted something unique sounding for the score, and while there’s nothing inherently strange about the instruments—orchestra, piano, and synthesizers—I took great pains to treat them in unusual manners.  The orchestra is actually an unconventional ensemble of 11 brass players and 8 violins, and their parts were deliberately written to be a little bit robotic sounding.  I also wasn’t shy about adding pitch-dives and other electronic treatments to them as well.  The piano sound itself underwent a lot of processing; there are a lot of reversed notes, for example, and late in the process we added the sound of piano hammer thumps to make it sound like your head was inside the piano itself.  

The synth sounds are mostly generated from my modest collection of hardware synthesizers: for all those gear heads out there, I used a Moog Voyager, Moog Minitaur, Prophet 6, Prophet 08, and Access Virus.  The final touch was to bring in my friend Jason Schweitzer to mix the score.  Jason is a Grammy-winning engineer, probably mostly known for his work with hip hop artists like Eminem and Dr. Dre.  He was completely new to the video game world, which was perfect, because he had no preconceived notions on what a game score should or should not be.  I gave him a lot of free reign and told him to be as creative as he wanted, and he crafted a lush, swirly, thoroughly Martian soundscape.  I think the results are thrilling.

Q: So, I’ve got to ask: if you had a chance to live on Mars, would you take it? What would you hope to see there?

CT: Honestly… it seems very uncomfortable.  Very dusty.  Hard to breathe.  I think I’ll pass.

Q: Are there any other specific details of the score that you want to mention?

CT: There’s one final musical detail that I’m sort of pleased with.  I managed to sneak in a quotation of the Largo (slow) movement of Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ in the game.  After all, it’s a game about colonizing Mars… so how could I not?

To hear Christopher Tin’s beautiful score, check out Offworld Trading Company today at www.offworldgame.com.

This interview was originally conducted (hah, pun! See what I did there?) in April of 2016.  

 

Take to the Stars Episode Thirteen: Joji-5

Published on Monday, October 30, 2017 By Tatiora In Offworld Dev Journals

Joji-5

Recorded by Joji-5
Production Head - Yoshimi Robotics

Humans are strange creatures.

There are others among us who believe I should feel a sense of satisfaction or gratitude toward them for having created us, but such an emotion is not only improbable, but misplaced. We were created to make life easier for humanity, and we have certainly done - and will continue to do - just that.

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ASHES DEV JOURNAL: October 2017

Published on Friday, October 27, 2017 By GeneralsGentlemen In Ashes Dev Journals



G'day!

For the past month we've been working on the 2.6 update which is currently in QA testing and scheduled for early November. I already revealed some info about it in the September Dev Journal, but I'd like to drop more of a teaser.


##Quality of Life Changes##
2.6 isn't going to be our most exciting update, but it contains a great deal of Quality of Life changes and gameplay reworks that have long been requested and players will be happy to see implemented. These includes things like larger cursors for higher resolutions and changes to the way players are alerted about Logistics. Never again will a Dreadnought be at 99.99% waiting for the player to press Logistics but without them being alerted to do so. 

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Take to the Stars Episode Twelve: Mikhail Nekrasov

Published on Monday, October 23, 2017 By Tatiora In Offworld Dev Journals

From the desk of Dr. Mikhail Nekrasov

Space has all but given me a new life.

I never meant to come here. For me, the dangers of space travel never seemed worth braving. I was happy in Berlin, where I was surrounded by family and respected colleagues. My research was based on Earth - aluminum is as abundant there as it is anywhere else, so why would I want to leave?

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