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Wardell:  Sins Of A Solar Empire  Hits Low System Reqs-Aided 500,000 Units
Wardell: Sins Of A Solar Empire Hits Low System Reqs-Aided 500,000 Units Exclusive
September 4, 2008 | By Chris Remo, Leigh Alexander

September 4, 2008 | By Chris Remo, Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Sins of a Solar Empire cost less than a million dollars to make, and recently passed its 400,000th unit sold full-price at retail -- and has racked up over 100,000 units sold via digital distribution, it's been revealed to Gamasutra.

"People were so surprised at how well Sins of a Solar Empire did," explains Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, who published the sci-fi real-time strategy title on PC -- although Ironclad Games is the developer, Stardock (Galactic Civilizations series) had a high level of involvement with the game's process and design.

Long-time 'core' PC game supporter Wardell has been discussing with Gamasutra his passionate opinion on the PC gaming industry, its problems and some possible solutions in a series of recent news stories.

Wardell says that system reqs and compatibility issues mean the PC gaming biz has "damaged itself... That definitely hurts the PC, because it's frustrating."

Part of Sins' success, Wardell says, is that it was designed to ensure a wide potential audience. "Sins of a Solar Empire was explicitly designed to work on a wide variety of machines," he says. "It will run on a four-year-old video card, and it looks great."

For example, he says, ship turrets don't move in the game, although many people might prefer they be mobile. "Sure, we could have done that, but that requires higher-end hardware, and most people don't even realize it doesn't have that," he says.

"You make those kinds of design decisions, and you greatly increase the number of people who can play your game. You lose out on some piddly super-mega effect, but you get those units. The results come in sales."

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Mike Rozak
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I'll cut-and-paste my comment about megatrends in gaming, agreeing with Brad Wardell:

You're missing a megatrend that will affect games in general, but which MMORPG-developers have been feeling for a few years...

Moore's Law is breaking... in a sense...

Basically, people are keeping their PCs alive for longer. It seems that PCs are kept alive for 7-ish years now. In the early 90's, a PC's lifespan was assumed to be 3 before it was closeted.

Plus, people are buying smaller/cheaper "PCs". The most extreme example are netbooks like the Eee.

What this means?

A new game must find a way to use a computer with 8 GB RAM, Intel's latest hyperthreading quad-core, and dual 16:9 32" monitors.

The same game must also run on a 512 MB Eee netbook with a single-core 1 gig processor and a 7" screen. Or, it must run on a PC bought 7 years ago. Both are roughly equivalent (other than screen size).

In other words: The CPU/GPU/Memory/Pixel usage of a game must scale by around a factor of 16.

In the long run, this means that while Intel/AMD may be doubling the speed of their chips every 18 months, the AVERAGE still-running CPU doubles in speed every 24(ish) months.

Ryan Meray
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This is just awesome. I'm just glad to see Brad & Co. kicking butt on behalf of indie game developers, and leading the pack in trends beneficial to PC gamers and gamers in general.