So if you haven’t already see the v1.2 Preview, click here: http://forums.ashesofthesingularity.com/477887/
Lots to talk about this month!
## Version 1.2 is a pretty big deal ##
From 1.0 through 1.13 the game has been operating on the Nitrous engine that was built during early access. For those of interested in how games are made, think of a game has two pieces: The engine which is 90% of the work and the “game” which is a thin icing on top of the engine. 1.0 through 1.13 were updates to the game. Version 1.2, by contrast, is the first big update to the underlying engine which should, we hope, substantially improve performance and reliability.
That said, multiple-GPU configurations continue to be challenging so if you plan to run DirectX 12 with multiple GPUs, make sure you always keep up with the latest drivers. You should also, aggressively report any problems you run into (lockups, hangs in particular) as AMD/NVIDIA are very interested in these reports.
Two months after release, Ashes remains the only multi-GPU DirectX 12 game. So on the one hand, congratulations, you’re cutting edge. On the other hand, I apologize, you’re cutting edge.
## AMD vs. NVIDIA ##
Version 1.2 is also has a lot of updates to the benchmark and adds a specific CPU benchmark as well. With AMD and NVIDIA both introducing new video cards roughly the same time and Ashes being one of the go-to benchmarks, we are trying to keep an eye to make sure no one is doing anything odd to bump up the numbers.
Each company has their own strategy with their new card that is worth discussing here.
NVIDIA’s 1080 is extremely powerful but also expensive. AMD has taken a different route with their 480 which is to have it much less expensive. You could, in fact, put two 480s in your box for the price of a single 1080 (you could actually do 3). Needless to say, the argument is going to come down to which runs faster: an NV1080 or 2XAMD480s.
## Huge Map Size ##
We have a new map size in the works called “Huge” that is a lot bigger than the current large map size. We also know that late game, presently, you need 6 CPU cores to deal with it. We are working hard to optimize this but this gives me an opportunity to talk shop with you guys on the amazing terrain system that’s in Ashes (or as a critic might say, overkill).
The Ashes terrain system is deformable. The best known example of a deformable terrain is of course, Populous from back in the day. Deforming terrain is non-trivial (Supreme Commander does not have deformable terrain). Moreover, the height maps are 16-bit rather than 8-bit (meaning you can have 65,535 heights which matters if you want to have genuine heights combined with smooth slopes).
The reason I bring these things up is because when you build things (and destroy buildings) it actually deforms the terrain in real-time and that is very very expensive (and it gets more expensive the bigger the map and more players you have). So anyway, this is coming for everyone who has 6 cores or more in the not too distant future and everyone else (4 cores or more) eventually (Skylake can do some interesting things actually and if Async compute were more widely available on GPUs we could offload it there but I digress).
## Player Counts ##
At ship, we stuck with a safe 6 players which has worked out pretty well. Multiplayer in Ashes is remarkably stable for a brand new RTS as in, it just works.
But in the long-term, we want to get it up to much, much higher (think huge maps with 40 players). The number of humans we’ll allow in multiplayer will lag behind the # of total players as we have to do this very carefully.
Games like StarCraft are able to segregate their user base geographically but we don’t have that luxury. There is a magic number of people you have to have playing online to keep a MP community viable. And if you slip before that, it’s hard to come back.
## Reinforcements ##
The Ashes user base continues to be pretty decent in size. However, the number of people in the queue at any given time has dropped from a very healthy 14 (in May) to around 11 (average this past week).
Now, you might think that 11 people waiting with you in the queue is a lot. But it’s actually not because we try not to match Legendary players (and of those 11, 5 or so are usually at the top of the ranks) with new players. Right now, people who are in the middle ranks are having to wait 4 or 5 minutes to get matched and that’s getting dangerous.
So to forewarn everyone, we are going to have an aggressive sale of Ashes soon. Like 50% off aggressive to boost the player count. This won’t happen until after version 1.2 ships but we want to let you know it’s going to be happening.
If we were a single player only game, we wouldn’t do such an aggressive sale but from the long-term point of view, the MP community must keep growing or else it’ll die.
This strategy worked really well for Act of Aggression (which I recommend checking out).
## The state of balance ##
PHC vs. Substrate advocates each argue that the other side is over powered. And they are both right and version 1.2 is addressing some of this.
The PHC Fury is OP and will no longer be able to have its main gun targeting ground (its dual pulse cannons can still do it but it’s main gun won’t). Similarly, we’ve been cutting down the Substrate Dominator and Punisher bit by bit to make them more reasonable.
However, long-term, players simply need more tools.
Now this gets back to my argument on what should be DLC vs. what should “free” in an update. Version 1.2 includes two free units: The PHC Athena and the Substrate Eradicator. So why are they free? The answer is because there is a glaring hole in each side’s arsenal to implement a true combined arms strategy. The PHC simply lacked a short-range anti-cruiser unit. This is unacceptable.
A Substrate player could, and this is a huge issue on big maps, build up a ton of Maulers flanked by a bunch of Reapers can be nearly unstoppable in certain cases.
A PHC player, by contrast, routinely can build a death ball of Artemis’s that are largely untouchable.
Thus, the two new units given each side some new counters and strategies.
But this isn’t the end of it. Not by far.
In version 1.3, we will be adding a new economic building for the Substrate that provides the same functionality as the relatively new PHC Refinery.
But the other big change will be the concept of upgrading buildings into higher tier buildings. A Smarty will be able to be upgraded into a Barrager for example (a longer range, much nastier thing) and the Sentinel will be able to be upgraded into a much nastier defense as well. The Substrate defense buildings will get the same benefit as well.
Also, while version 1.2 allows players to upgrade their building HP, we will soon be taking the ability to heal them with medics.
## The Wiki ##
We have added a new Ashes of the Singularity Wiki for those of you interested: http://wiki.ashesofthesingularity.com/