Ashes of the Singularity is Full-Scale War

Ashes of the Singularity is Full-Scale War

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Oxide Games' Nitrous Engine and Ashes of the Singularity make the skirmishes you see in other RTS games seem like a gentlemen's duel.

I've been playing RTS games for decades now - as far back as Dune II in the early 90s - and I've seen small scale, large scale, and everything in between. What I haven't seen, however, is the magnitude that Ashes of the Singularity is aiming for, made possible by the Nitrous Engine from Oxide Games. I watched a demo of a war in Ashes at 4k resolution and 30fps (the TV only operated at 30Hz) with virtually zero issues for the entire duration of my appointment. The war consisted of at least a half dozen simultaneous battles, each of which was at least the size of your typical StarCraft II skirmish. You could zoom out and watch all 5,500 units (which I'm told isn't even close to the limit) launch rockets, shoot lasers, and dodge drone swarms, with gorgeous particle effects, dynamic lighting, and intelligent targeting. In a word, it was incredible.

I was skeptical, of course, as I had no idea what the specs of the machine were, but it struck me visually as something that would be hard to achieve even on the highest end of the PC spectrum. There was talk of things I couldn't possibly understand, like "temporal anti-aliasing" to smooth out the motion of the units (apparently, they render, then blend four frames for each frame displayed), but the key to performance comes from being able to efficiently utilize all cores in the multi-core processor. As they explained, typically when you play a game and look at your system performance, one of your CPU cores will be maxed out, and the others will be operating at mid-to-low levels. They've apparently figured out a way to ensure that all cores (tested so far on up to 16 cores) are splitting the load fairly evenly, maximizing the power of your machine. As they said, "your computer is more powerful than you think it is."

The Nitrous Engine isn't the only cool thing about Ashes of the Singularity, though. There are some particularly neat concepts in play that make coordinating thousands of units simultaneously a bit more manageable without having professional level actions per minute. They call them Metaunits.


In most RTS games, you can form squads. That's old news. But imagine if each unit in that squad was aware of every other unit. Imagine that they knew their roles on the battlefield, and knew how to form up, based on the squad composition. If you put tanks and artillery together in a Metaunit and march them off to the front lines, the Artillery will deliberately set up in the rear, and the tanks will protect them from the front. If you have a healer in a squad that's spread out and another unit in the squad needs healing, that healer will know this and move to do its job, rather than only healing units that are nearby. Additionally they're planning a UI for the Metaunit that will allow you to keep it intact by requesting nearby factories to produce replacements for lost units, which will automatically go and join their platoon. If that's not enough, there's something similar in the works for production.

This is still in the planning stages according to Brad Wardell, but there's talk of making a meta-production queue which intelligently decides where each unit in the queue should be produced. If you request a tank for a Metaunit in the east and an artillery for a Metaunit in the west, both will go into the general production queue, and when they're ready, they'll pop out of the factory nearest to their Metaunit. No longer will you need to hotkey your production facilities to keep your armies moving along. Ashes wants to let you do it all from the field. They want you to be the general, not the lieutenant.

If full-scale warfare sounds like your thing, you can learn more about it right here!

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I must admit, that really does sound like my thing. I'm much more of a macro player than micro, so it looks like it will be a good fit for me. Interesting to see that they're already offering a "Founder's Edition" preorder. Not sure if I'd spring for that. I like the concept and all, but I'd need to see more before I could make a decision either way.

So it's a Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander/Planetary Annihilation type game then?

I'm ok with that, very very ok with that in fact.

Getting the AI to function well sounds promising, if challenging. My pet hate in Company of heroes was watching the vehicles scamper away from their infy support. Looks like they're at least a year away from being eligible for my money though, good luck to them!

Sign me up, this sounds awesome!

About time there was something new in the rts genre.

I like the ambitious scale of this, especially with that metaunit AI. If it works even half as well as they say, it'll be the closest thing we have to playing as Ender from Ender's Game.

If it does well, maybe we'd get a sequel with customizable metaunit AIs; imagine basically having a group of sub-commanders that were capable of different strategies.

Hopefully they are going for an "optional micromanagement" approach. A good RTS lets you choose how much the AI helps you play the game. They are clearly working on one end of that right now, so that the computer handles the positioning of different unit types and activated abilities like medics, but the other end is important too. If I don't want the artillery to lag behind the tank convoy or if I want the medic to stay where they are, I should not have to fight the "helpful" AI to do it.

I'm excited for this, seeing as End Of Nations was looking like it was going to be a massive scale RTS that we all wanted, but is now some F2P browser game or something equally as lousy.

Encaen:
4k resolution and 30fps (the TV only operated at 30Hz)

Permit me a suspicious "Hrmm."

Hrmm.

I am officially skeptical.

I can't stand those resource management games, though. I much prefer the Total War approach, where what you've got is what you're stuck with.

Sounds ambitious, though, and that unit count is quite impressive.

008Zulu:

Encaen:
4k resolution and 30fps (the TV only operated at 30Hz)

Permit me a suspicious "Hrmm."

Hrmm.

I am officially skeptical.

I am skeptical too, who in their right mind would choose a 30Hz TV to demo a game? It seems more like an excuse to me.

After recently re-installing C&C: Generals, I think I'm ready for another journey into the wacky world of RTS.

Keeping an eye on this one.

Grumman:
Hopefully they are going for an "optional micromanagement" approach. A good RTS lets you choose how much the AI helps you play the game. They are clearly working on one end of that right now, so that the computer handles the positioning of different unit types and activated abilities like medics, but the other end is important too. If I don't want the artillery to lag behind the tank convoy or if I want the medic to stay where they are, I should not have to fight the "helpful" AI to do it.

I do believe you'll be able to micromanage to your heart's content, as well as utilize the metaunits. I would really love to watch a pro RTSer play with 5,000 units without the metaunit option, though. I feel like that'd be an incredible challenge for even the very best of micromanagers.

josemlopes:

008Zulu:

Encaen:
4k resolution and 30fps (the TV only operated at 30Hz)

Permit me a suspicious "Hrmm."

Hrmm.

I am officially skeptical.

I am skeptical too, who in their right mind would choose a 30Hz TV to demo a game? It seems more like an excuse to me.

That seemed a little odd to me as well, but I'm still cautiously optimistic. I tried to use the "alleged" and "they said" sort of wording frequently to reflect that this was based on what I was told, not anything I was able to personally verify. That said, it still looked remarkably smooth, even at 30 fps. They said that was where the "temporal anti-aliasing" stuff came in, but that's a little outside of my realm of technical knowledge.

Well that sounds kinda awesome, and history suggests that Brad Wardell is a very talented individual. This one is now firmly on my radar.

Well...

Sins of the solar empire(2008)
image

Supreme Commander Forged Alliance(2007)
image

Rome total war(2004)[best game from the total war series] Almost all the single player battle are of 10k units.
image

Have been doing full scale war for a long time...

Though I admit you do need mods to infinitely increase the base game unit limit...

TheArcaneThinker:
Well...

Sins of the solar empire(2008)

Supreme Commander Forged Alliance(2007)

Rome total war(2004)[best game from the total war series] Almost all the single player battle are of 10k units.

Have been doing full scale war for a long time...

Though I admit you do need mods to infinitely increase the base game unit limit...

For the record, I frigging love every single game you just mentioned and have played several hundred hours between them (heavily weighted in favor of rome admittedly, but still, I've played the others quite a bit.)

However, it's not really fair to compare these games in their scale. In rome, even with the scale slider maxed out, you'd at least 3 fully stacked armies, of the units with the most men-per-unit, to reach 10000 guys on the battlefield at once; and that doesn't happen in single player often unless you put together a force of 9000 to go conquering (which, again, is 3 ish full stack armies: hardly trivial to put together).
For sins and supreme commander, you are dealing with a scale of hundreds of units, not thousands upon thousands (though admittedly you COULD reasonably reach thousands with supreme commander if you have at least 4 players).
Without mods to increase the unit limits, these games don't really come close to a full scale war on a single RTS map. The closest is supreme commander and, again, that'd require quite a few players, the biggest possible map, and a LOT of time to build up the necessary infrastructure (and so only happens if you go out of your way to make it so.)

As for this Ashes of the Singularity, color me interested. Even without the ridiculously large scale, if you could make a supreme commander style game without the issues of incredibly stupid AI or atrocious land unit pathfinding, I'd be all over that. Being able to send flights of thousands of bombers with further hundreds of fighters as an escort would just be a perk.

Quazimofo:

TheArcaneThinker:
Well...

Sins of the solar empire(2008)

Supreme Commander Forged Alliance(2007)

Rome total war(2004)[best game from the total war series] Almost all the single player battle are of 10k units.

Have been doing full scale war for a long time...

Though I admit you do need mods to infinitely increase the base game unit limit...

For the record, I frigging love every single game you just mentioned and have played several hundred hours between them (heavily weighted in favor of rome admittedly, but still, I've played the others quite a bit.)

However, it's not really fair to compare these games in their scale. In rome, even with the scale slider maxed out, you'd at least 3 fully stacked armies, of the units with the most men-per-unit, to reach 10000 guys on the battlefield at once; and that doesn't happen in single player often unless you put together a force of 9000 to go conquering (which, again, is 3 ish full stack armies: hardly trivial to put together).
For sins and supreme commander, you are dealing with a scale of hundreds of units, not thousands upon thousands (though admittedly you COULD reasonably reach thousands with supreme commander if you have at least 4 players).
Without mods to increase the unit limits, these games don't really come close to a full scale war on a single RTS map. The closest is supreme commander and, again, that'd require quite a few players, the biggest possible map, and a LOT of time to build up the necessary infrastructure (and so only happens if you go out of your way to make it so.)

As for this Ashes of the Singularity, color me interested. Even without the ridiculously large scale, if you could make a supreme commander style game without the issues of incredibly stupid AI or atrocious land unit pathfinding, I'd be all over that. Being able to send flights of thousands of bombers with further hundreds of fighters as an escort would just be a perk.

I agree to every word you said . My point was that even in old games , you could still have infinite units with the help of mods even if base games had their limits . I thought I made it clear in the last line .

Looks fun but obviously will need to wait and see how it goes, being optimistic though.

Definitely gonna sink my teeth into it when it comes out.

Sounds interesting. I was initially inclined to be somewhat sceptical of yet another small, largely unknown studio suddenly claiming all kinds of advances, especially given the farce that was Planetary Annihilation. But this is apparently actually the CEO and founder of Stardock in a company specifically set up to develop the engine to do this. We'll have to see whether the game turns out any good, but on the technical side they do seem to know what they're talking about.

008Zulu:

Encaen:
4k resolution and 30fps (the TV only operated at 30Hz)

Permit me a suspicious "Hrmm."

Hrmm.

I am officially skeptical.

Eh, I'm not particularly. Sure, 30Hz would seem a bit of an odd choice, but 30fps at 4K isn't exactly bad and would easily translate to 60fps at a more normal 2560*1600 resolution and well over that at the crappy 1080p that still seems to be stuck as the usual benchmark. Plus 30fps is absolutely fine for an RTS. Unless there's something really weird going on and framerate doesn't scale up at lower resolutions, I don't see any obvious issues here.

Quazimofo:
However, it's not really fair to compare these games in their scale. In rome, even with the scale slider maxed out, you'd at least 3 fully stacked armies, of the units with the most men-per-unit, to reach 10000 guys on the battlefield at once;

Even then you don't really have 10,000 guys, since the computer actually deals with units which simplifies things a great deal. Doing one calculation for route pathing and then playing the same move animation for every model as they move requires a lot less processing than calculating individual paths for 20 separate units and then having 20 animations all out of sync with each other. I'd expect games like Supreme Commander to need far more processing power than Rome (everything else being equal of course); the number of character models may be more, but the number of individual things needing individual calculations will be far less.

TheArcaneThinker:
My point was that even in old games , you could still have infinite units with the help of mods even if base games had their limits.

That may have been your point, but it's obviously wrong since no amount of mods will allow you to have infinite units. Removing unit caps doesn't mean your computer is actually able to render thousands of units, and if you try doing so in a game like Sins it will just grind to a halt. That's the whole point of what they're claiming to be able to do here - the engine will allow you to actually have thousands of units fighting on screen without needing a supercomputer to run it. If it was just a question of software unit caps, there wouldn't be any news here at all and every game would already allow you as many units as you liked.

Soo... instead of delivering on the star swarm tech demo massive space battle....

we get another groundpounder game with hilariously out of scale units on entirely to weirdly small looking maps.

Wut.

+ the displayed tech level show there immediately raises the question why "oozles of land units" won over "KEW that shiite from orbit" in that universes strategic planning committees...

Oh and one note:

See how every unit there is a hover unit? That probably because they simply put a map "under" the actual travel plane, and just have impassable hitboxes mark canyons and stuff so units drive around.
That would save the ma lot of processing time, not having to accurately track wheeled/tracked units traversing terrain.....

dum die doe... just thinking...

 

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