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    Ashes Of The Singularity: Large-scale battles with large-scale assistance

    Armchair strategy-game generals have long dealt with the disconnect between the scale of their ambition and their moment-to-moment workloads. High-ranking military commanders don’t squander their precious time phoning individual tank crews, so why should their virtual counterparts? Oxide Games’ newly announced RTS Ashes of the Singularity lets players amass armies with thousands of units and gives them the tools necessary to manage such power.

    Adam Biessener, brand manager at publisher Stardock , pulls up a battle in progress. The 4K display is filled with the spectacle of a sci-fi battle. Hundreds of missiles streak from edge to edge, leaving streams of smoke behind them, illuminated by laser bolts that pass through. It’s a stunning sight in itself, which Biessener says is made possible by Oxide’s new Nitrous engine.

    He pulls back the camera, providing greater context for the battle. It’s but one front in a larger war, all of which is the player’s responsibility. Managing so many units using genre-standard techniques would be either frustrating or impossible, which is why Oxide is introducing the concept of the “meta unit.”

    Players select several individual units, and then assign them into a larger group: the meta unit. It sounds similar to grouping systems we’ve seen in the past, but Biessener says Ashes of the Singularity takes it to a sophisticated new level.

    “Once a unit is in a meta unit, it is then aware of all of the other units within its meta unit, and it changes its A.I. and its behaviors accordingly,” he says. “So they fight together intelligently. They support each other intelligently. If you group some tanks with some artillery, the tanks will hang back and protect the artillery while the artillery wrecks s–from afar. The theory is that I want to be able to say, ‘This mountain pass over here, this is strategically important, I need to defend this.’ I want to take a division of my army and say, ‘You, go defend that.’” Once you direct your meta unit toward that area, they should be able to take it from there.

    That level of autonomy extends to how you bolster existing meta units, too. “You click on a meta unit, and you say, ‘I want to add six tanks, twelve artillery, six interceptors, and one of these big capital ships to it.’ You add all those, and it automatically selects the nearest and/or least-busy factories, orders up the units, as soon as they pop out they go over to the meta unit, join the order of battle, and fight intelligently.” That’s a welcome break from how it’s traditionally handled, where your attention is repeatedly pulled between your factories and battle group.

    “I’m the general,” Biessener says, summing up the game nicely. “I’m commanding the war, I’m not fighting in the individual battles.”

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