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Is this the beginning of a strategy game engine business at Stardock?

January 7, 2014 | By Kris Graft

For Galactic Civilizations developer Stardock, the current crop of available game engines doesn't really fit the developer's specialty -- PC strategy games.

That's why Stardock decided to fund Oxide's Nitrous Engine, a 64-bit game engine for strategy games, created by talent from Microsoft, Firaxis, and Stardock itself.

What we learned today at CES is that the engine has picked up interest from developers outside of Stardock's small network of studios, so we may see it used in more games than previously expected -- if Oxide can handle the workload.

Dan Baker, cofounder of Oxide, said it wasn't his studio's intention to mess around with engine licensing at all. "Our goal was always to make an engine for us to use," he said. "And we're still making a game right now."

"But the interest has been so high in an engine that can handle these kind of workloads. It kind of surprised us."

Baker and his studio's original plan was to get Oxide's first game done, then to license the engine out. "But because of the interest we got, we rushed out the licensing aspect of the plan."

So who's interested in using the engine? Baker would only say, "There is dialog with non-Stardock studios. So far only Stardock-affiliated studios have been announced, but there are discussions with others."

The engine is already in use across multiple games and multiple studios that are funded by or part of Stardock. The Plymouth, Michigan-based developer is creating a new Star Control out of its Baltimore office using the engine. The upcoming game from Soren Johnson's Mohawk Games also uses the tech. And Oxide itself is using the engine for its game, naturally.

At CES, Stardock was showing off the engine via a spacefaring strategy game demo. The most notable aspect visually was the amount of objects that were flying around space -- it looked like it would be at home in a game like Galactic Civilizations or Sins of a Solar Empire.

While the idea of a good, strategy game-focused, licensed engine might be appealing to some developers, don't expect Oxide to start licensing it to just anyone. Baker said that as he never intended to attract external interest, he's concerned that the engine business might become a distraction, and Oxide is treading carefully.

"It is a concern," he said. "That's why we're not doing wide-open licensing. It's not like we're going to just let anyone do it, because we are afraid of getting distracted. We have our own project that's really important to us, and other projects after that. So that is definitely a concern for us."

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