Stardock Status Report: November 2013

By on November 8, 2013 2:46:55 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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I haven’t done one of these in a while but holy cow so many cool things going on with so many things being announced so recently that I think we owe it to you guys to share what’s happening here.

So as some of you know, Stardock’s an “indie” in the sense that it’s still owned and run by its founder (me). So there is no question whatsoever who I am responsible to: My coworkers and you.  I don’t have stock holders to please and that lets us do lots of new and interesting stuff.  So let’s talk about it.

 

Oxide

image2 weeks ago we announced Oxide Games (www.oxidegames.com). Oxide is an independent studio that is dedicated to making cool and interesting technology and games.  It has a bunch of things it’s already working on but the one that has gotten the most attention is the Nitrous 3D engine.  It is the first (as far as I know) engine to use SWARM (Simultaneous Work and Rendering Model) or anything similar. What SWARM means is that graphics are processed completely concurrently with your cores. The more cores you have, the faster it runs. The engine has no concept of a “main” thread or a “graphics” thread or what have you. 

SWARM

From a developer’s perspective, it has the ease of writing a “single threaded” game while the engine just splits everything up between the various CPU cores. SWARM matters because the much of the eventual improvement in visual fidelity in PC and the new-gen consoles will come down to making use of all those cores and the Nitrous engine makes full use of them.

MANTLE

Another piece of news that’s actually a pretty big deal for PC gamers (and those who own any consoles that happen to be powered by AMD – like Xbox One and PS4) is Mantle. This is AMD’s competitor to DirectX. There’s no sugar coating it. Mantle is as much an alternative to DirectX as OpenGL is.  And I can tell you, it’s pretty amazing and Oxide is supporting it (see AMD’s press release).

CRAZY GRAPHICS

What all this will mean for games is that you will be able to have games with the visual fidelity of movies.  Let me be specific: Remember the beginning of Revenge of the Sith with that massive space battle? We can do that now. Same level of visual quality at >30fps.  Or remember the battles in Lord of the Rings? Same thing. The hardware and with Nitrous, the software has reached the point where those CGI scenes can be done in real-time.  There are games in development right now that will deliver this.

RAMIFICATIONS

One interesting side effect will be - where will gaming go after this? If the hardware and software has reached a point where we’ll start having real-time, photo-realistic scenes with thousands of things at once and uncanny valley is due only to talent limitations, what happens next? 

 

Stardock Plymouth

With the recently launched Mobile unit (HEY! Go get Deadman’s Draw, it’s awesome!) and with the long-stated goal of having 2 game development teams internally running at the same time, we’re building out our lower floor.  Here are some pictures:

image

This is the café we’re putting in where people will be able to eat launch, play video games, hang out. 

 

image

We have an in-house nutritionist that does cooking demos and so the lower floor will have a much expanded kitchen/bar area where she can teach different recipes.

Before anyone asks, we have a nutritionist because let’s face it, many people in our industry (cough…cough) eat crap.  Now that I’m in my 40s, I really regret the things I ate and I wish I knew then what I know now.  So this is one of those things we can do to help those who are interested eat healthy good food.

The kitchen on the main floor is being converted to a fitness room.  Our in-house trainer works with those interested in physically training (mostly flexibility and weight related training).  I did this because, again, now that I’m in my 40s and I can barely touch my knees due to 2 decades of sitting at a computer, I wish someone had told me or..ahem motivated me (i.e. a trainer) to take just a little time each week to stay in better shape.  It’s voluntary of course but the response has been really positive.

image

image

This is the work area downstairs where Galactic Civilizations III’s team will be moving down into. That way the So—nevermind, the OTHER team will be have most of the top floor.

Old man Paxton (Stardock’s new VP, Kael) has been pushing to expand the QA team further which means, of course, more room.  I have tried (but failed) to explain that it’s the compiler’s job to do QA. If it compiles, that means it works.  For some reason, he disagrees.

Mohawk Games

imageLike Oxide, Mohawk is an independent studio.  Like Oxide, Stardock’s roll is to provide seed capital and the business management aspects (the stuff that tends to bog down start-ups). 

When I have more time, I plan to discuss in some detail the way the Stardock Investment Fund (SIF) functions. It doesn’t just throw money at studios. SIF also provides employee services (health insurance, 401Ks, accounting, legal, and bunches of other “stuff”) and then incorporates the studios into a wider development network that allows each group to share resources.

Those of you who are familiar with the game industry know how volatile employment at these places can be.  The SIF is designed so that someone can have a career at these studios without worrying about being laid off randomly because a project ended. Instead, the studios just contract resources between each other.

Mohawk is working on an economic conquest game code-named Mars (and I can’t think of anything to usefully compare it to except MULE but this is not like MULE other than being in the same genre).

 

More to Come

There are a few more endeavors that are starting to get close to being announced.  We’ll be talking about those in the coming weeks/months.

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November 11, 2013 1:15:15 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

...and we are live!

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November 11, 2013 1:48:08 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

WOW!

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November 11, 2013 3:24:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great! Er...wait, what's live?  SD Plymouth? 

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November 11, 2013 3:42:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


That way the So—nevermind, the OTHER team will be have most of the top floor.

I see what you did there.  

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November 11, 2013 3:46:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums



One interesting side effect will be - where will gaming go after this? If the hardware and software has reached a point where we’ll start having real-time, photo-realistic scenes with thousands of things at once and uncanny valley is due only to talent limitations, what happens next?

I'll tell you where we'll go! Dragons and tomb kings and mirror elementals and one of those snake things from nordic mythology that go around the world.

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November 11, 2013 4:41:14 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Makes me wish I had a skillset you guys could use so I could work there. Then again, my schizoïd personality disorder and dislike for your country (government mostly) would probably prevent that from happening too

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November 11, 2013 4:50:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One step closer to the matrix. SD will invent plugins soon and we can all enjoy Frog VR - honeybees and AI coding! And giving Derek a hard time.

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November 11, 2013 5:19:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


When I have more time, I plan to discuss in some detail the way the Stardock Investment Fund (SIF) functions. It doesn’t just throw money at studios. SIF also provides employee services (health insurance, 401Ks, accounting, legal, and bunches of other “stuff”) and then incorporates the studios into a wider development network that allows each group to share resources.

I'm very interested to see this post when you get to it. 

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November 12, 2013 9:32:35 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

This fall has definitely been exciting around here, that's for sure!! 

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November 12, 2013 9:39:02 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Athena,

This fall has definitely been exciting around here, that's for sure!! 

At least for the gamers.

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November 12, 2013 10:00:15 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Interesting.

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November 12, 2013 10:13:45 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting RedneckDude,

Quoting Athena, reply 9
This fall has definitely been exciting around here, that's for sure!! 

At least for the gamers.

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November 12, 2013 10:23:46 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting RedneckDude,


Quoting Athena, reply 9
This fall has definitely been exciting around here, that's for sure!! 

At least for the gamers.

You got Launch8.

 

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November 12, 2013 10:51:48 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

True, but compared to the attention being paid to the gaming side of things, we customizers aren't getting an even shake. Even their websites are way cooler than ours. You'd think a customization website would have........well...........a customized look.

I understand that Windows 8 is such that gaming is probably where the future lies with Stardock, so I guess it's to be expected. I'm sure customization is nearing it's end.

 

Look at the current activity on WC. Most of the top, long time skinners are inactive. Not a lot going on.

 

Oh well, such is progress.  

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November 12, 2013 10:58:16 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Island Dog,
You got Launch8.

Nice little utility. But any serious customizer is running Window 8/8.1 in desktop mode. Negating need for such a utility. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we have the app, but unlikely to get much use from it. 

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November 12, 2013 11:05:59 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting RedneckDude,
I understand that Windows 8 is such that gaming is probably where the future lies with Stardock, so I guess it's to be expected. I'm sure customization is nearing it's end.

You'll have to pull Windows 7 from my cold dead fingers...

I personally plan on avoiding upgrading my OS for as long as possible.

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November 12, 2013 11:18:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

yet amd has been browbeaten into saying mantle isn't for the consoles.....

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November 12, 2013 12:49:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't think customization is hurt by a bad OS.    Means more to customize.

If Windows makes customization impossible- then Stardock would have problems, but I suspect at that point the industry would be looking for a Windows alternative.

 

I suspect after the OS/2 days, the last thing Brad wants to deal with is a situation where folks are changing OS's or an OS rapidly loses market share.

 

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November 12, 2013 5:09:00 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Alstein,
I don't think customization is hurt by a bad OS. Means more to customize.
If Windows makes customization impossible- then Stardock would have problems

I mean the customizers, the skinners. The masters are mostly gone, quit skinning. We have a handful of people skinning windowblinds. Mostly just me on DX. Giz is awol from winstep.

 

All you need to do is look, the skinners have all but stopped.

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November 12, 2013 5:10:08 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Sorry for being off topic. I am done.

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November 13, 2013 12:46:18 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Customization evolves over time. Skinning was a niche at the start, got huge during XP and has returned to being a niche.

2013 has been a pretty big year for our non games  as we released two brand new products this year (ModernMix and Launch8) as well as updated our existing apps. We might even get one more this year.

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November 13, 2013 7:32:39 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Any chance that some of the issues with Windowblinds have been resolved?  Like the annoying titlebar skinning in GalCiv 2?

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November 13, 2013 11:29:00 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Alstein,
I don't think customization is hurt by a bad OS. Means more to customize.

Guess those that skin would have to upgrade to that bad OS in order to verify their work.

Quoting Borg999,
You'll have to pull Windows 7 from my cold dead fingers

same here.

Quoting RedneckDude,
All you need to do is look, the skinners have all but stopped.

really, hmm, well I guess I'll disagree to some extent. Those master skinners didn't start out as master skinners. They improved and developed over time. I think there are several people that are skinning today that are really good artists (I don't include me with that, I'm a technician). What we're encountering (IMHO) is lack of enthusiasm from the corporate side for continuing the product line. Win8 is not a great product for PCs and PCs are where the customization usually takes place.

Quoting Frogboy,
Customization evolves over time. Skinning was a niche at the start, got huge during XP and has returned to being a niche.

pretty much says it all.

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November 13, 2013 3:16:57 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Win8 will wait. Win7 is where its at for me......when I can do both I will.

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November 13, 2013 5:03:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You have a nutritionist and a trainer, all you need now is an in house mental health professional!  Don't worry, I'm already packing and will be there shortly!

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