Impulse to GameStop
Back in 2011 Stardock sold its digital distribution platform, Impulse, to GameStop and began migrating its titles to Steam, GOG, Green Man Gaming, Gamersgate, and other sites.
Stardock Strategic Investment Fund
In 2013, we announced the formation of a strategic investment fund in which we invested in two types of studios: Ones that we directly founded and helped manage (see above) as well as helping fund promising new game studios (Mothership, BonusXP).
The First wave
The Stardock studios and Mohawk and Oxide are directly managed by Stardock. To be clear: Mohawk and Oxide are both independent studios. In their cases, Stardock handles the day to day business management freeing the teams to pursue innovative new games and technologies.
With the exception of Star Control, which is fairly far in development but won’t be released until next year, the first wave of titles from this endeavor has arrived. Galactic Civilizations III, Ashes of the Singularity and Offworld Trading Company all appear very successful.
What was the goal?
Our specific goal wasn’t simply to fund new game projects (though we have been doing that as well). More specifically our goal was:
#1 Get a 4th generation engine that we can standardize on
#2 Concentrate experience game industry talent in one place so that the quality of all our titles increases
#3 Create an employment system such that when one project at one studio ends, the employees can be seamlessly put on a project in one of the other studios rather than doing the traditional mass lay offs that have hurt our industry so much.
So how has this worked out so far?
Goal 1 has been accomplished and then some. The Nitrous engine allowed us to create a really good new RTS at a fraction of the normal cost to build a game in this genre which allows us to continue to build it up over the next several years.
What makes Nitrous unique is that it shouldn’t become obsolete any time soon:
- 64-bit (Our older, 32-bit engines are stuck at 2GB of memory. This has hurt us in updating Sins of a Solar Empire for instance, we literally can’t add more units into the game at this stage without a major effort)
- Core Neutral. This means that the engine will automatically use as many CPU cores as your system has. In 8 years when we all have 16 core systems, the engine will use it. It means the games built on it today can still be updated and enhanced without engine changes.
- GPU Neutral. This means that every core will try to talk to the GPU. In most games, either the “main thread” or a dedicated thread will talk to the GPU. In Nitrous, every core will talk to it. So again, as time goes on, the advantage will only grow.
- Object Space Rendering. This is a complicated way of saying that the engine renders things like CGI in movies rather than how games do it (games usually use Deferred rendering, forward rendering or forward+ rendering, that’s why games never look like movies no matter how much hardware you throw at it, it’s the way a scene is put together).
Those 4 things are huge and mean Star Control (which uses Nitrous) and Ashes of the Singularity and other games we’re developing with it will be future proofed. There’s other little things in there such as the engine being resolution independent (you could pop Ashes onto an 8K display and it would look gorgeous. UI scales and the graphics simply get more detailed due to the way lighting is done).
Goal 2 has definitely been achieved. Offworld Trading Company is a great example of what happens when you bring talented people together. Same with Ashes of the Singularity and as people have seen since GalCiv III’s launch, getting help and feedback from the people who made Civ III, Civ IV and Civ V has made a huge difference that will be a big deal in next year’s efforts.
Goal 3 Is probably the goal that means the most to me personally. With Offworld Trading Company released, many of the artists and engineers are now on to boosting the Star Control team even though, technically, Stardock and Mohawk are separate entities. Similarly, many Stardock artists, having finished their part on an unannounced title for now, have been moved onto Ashes of the Singularity for its expansions even though Oxide is a separate company.
As the chart shows above, there are a lot of unannounced games in development still. Not to mention, there will be expansions and DLC of the existing titles.
But so far, so good.