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Windows 10 Apps from Stardock for Under $5

Wednesday, November 02, 2016 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

If you are a Windows 10 user, we have a great set of apps that can help you customize and enhance your user experience. The best part is, this can be done for under $5 each!

Below is a quick overview of each app and what it can do to improve your Windows 10 experience.


Start10

Start10 is one of Stardock's most popular apps for Windows 10. It is an alternative Start menu that brings additional customization and functionality to the Windows 10 Start menu. If you prefer the look of the Windows 7 Start menu, you can configure that style using Start10. You can even apply custom Start buttons for even more individuality.

Start10 also gives you the ability to maintain the "All Programs" folder metaphor, filter searches in the Start menu, and even integrates with Stardock Fences, another popular desktop application.

Get Start10 for $4.99

[video]https://youtu.be/zlsjl4mhbeg[/video]

 

ShadowFX

ShadowFX lets you add custom drop shadows to Windows 10. You can choose from a variety of pre-made shadows that are included with ShadowFX, or you can design and use your own custom shadows. Additional shadows can also be downloaded from WinCustomize.com. ShadowFX is great to use when you have windows stacked on each other, as it helps you distinguish between the windows.

Get ShadowFX for $4.99

[video]https://youtu.be/T-uvctUsvuI[/video]



Launch

Launch is a stationary dock that is designed to be used in the Windows 10 Start screen. This allows you to quickly launch applications right from the dock and use docked app jump lists for even quicker access. Launch can be positioned at the top or bottom of the screen and will always stay in place when you swipe left or right in the Start screen. This is a very useful tool when working in Tablet mode in Windows 10.

Get Launch for $4.99

 

These are just a few examples of the many desktop enhancements we have available for Windows users. You can see all the rest of our apps here. I also recommend taking a look at Object Desktop, the suite of desktop apps which include all of the apps mentioned above.

Learn more about Object Desktop here.

 

Object Desktop 2017

Thursday, October 27, 2016 by Draginol | Discussion: Personal Computing

 

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My desktop running WindowBlinds, DeskScapes, WindowFX, Fences, Start10 at 5K resolution

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IconPackager, Tiles and more at 5K resolution

 

Object Desktop is a suite of desktop enhancement utilities designed to allow users to customize their Windows desktop to work however they want it to work.

The core components of it are:

  1. WindowBlinds � customize the Windows GUI
  2. Fences � organize your desktop
  3. IconPackager � customize your icons
  4. DeskScapes � customize your desktop background
  5. WindowFX � customize the UI behaviors

But that line up has changed as Windows has changed over the years as Windows has changed.

When Object Desktop first launched for Windows its 5 core parts were:

  1. WindowBlinds
  2. ControlCenter � virtual desktops
  3. IconPackager
  4. Tab LaunchPad � launching programs

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Back then, the idea of �skinning� your Windows GUI was radical. 

 

By 2000, we had added a 5th item: DesktopX

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DesktopX let us objectify the Windows desktop.  It was one of our most popular components.  Unfortunately, the Windows UAC (the security features built into Windows) eventually made DesktopX untenable because, by its very nature, it was designed to integrate executable code into the desktop which is the opposite of what Microsoft wanted to accomplish with its secure desktop initiative.

Windows XP Era

By 2004, Object Desktop had 3 years of Windows XP to be able standardize all its efforts on. This resulted being able to create Theme Manager which let users gain total control of the Windows desktop.

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Object Desktop 2004

Windows Vista

Windows Vista was tough on Stardock and Object Desktop.  Microsoft pioneered a number of amazing technologies including Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), XAML, Silverlight and more.  For two years, Stardock put a great deal of effort into creating an Object Desktop Vista.  This included a DesktopX that could import XAML and export sidebar objects, a version of WindowBlinds that would use WPF to create resolution independent windows and a desktop compositor and of course the animated wallpaper program, DeskScapes.

Unfortunately, two things happened.  First, Windows Vista did not replace Windows XP for most people. Second, Microsoft decided to change direction leaving its promising new technologies sidelined. 

Moreover, the new secure desktop, UAC, made it very hard to run DesktopX.

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Object Desktop 2006

Windows 7

With Windows 7, Microsoft was back on course.   Stardock updated Object Desktop to version 2010. DesktopX was deprecated and in its place was Tweak 7 which gave users the ability to modify various largely hidden settings.

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Tweak 7

Windows 8�sigh

For Object Desktop to thrive, it needs a single OS target.  This is very important.  Windows 8 split the Windows market.  It made Start8 possible (which became very popular) but it meant that any technology we developed would have to be aware that it might not work on most of our customers machines.

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Start8

Object Desktop 2013 saw Start8 and Fences become the two stars of Object Desktop.  Neither program, however, was about customizing the look and feel of Windows as much as altering the way people work with Windows.

 

Windows 10

With Windows 10, Microsoft has created an OS that appears to be their new flagship.  It�s still new but it appears that it will be a stable platform for us to focus our Object Desktop development efforts.  This means we can potentially revisit bringing back apps that were broken on certain versions of Windows and get them on Windows 10.

The real question is, in the age of mobile computing, what is the use case of a Windows desktop (or laptop) PC?

 

Object Desktop 2017

Since the release of Object Desktop 2016, Stardock has added two new programs to Object Desktop:

  1. Multiplicity
  2. SpaceMonger

Neither customizes the desktop but rather focuses on what we are calling the Metadesktop.   Multiplicity lets you easily access your other desktops on other machines and SpaceMonger lets you manage your drive space on your desktop and cloud drives.

This represents the start of the next stage of Object Desktop. 

Let�s take a look at the core components now:

WindowBlinds

The hardest part of WindowBlinds development now is high DPI.  Many of the skins were designed when everyone was running much lower resolution.  WindowBlinds 10 nails high-DPI support but not all skins will play well with it.  This will be an ongoing evolution for WindowBlinds 10.

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WindowBlinds 10

 

DeskScapes

Animated wallpapers are pretty cool. And today, they use trivial amounts of resources.  When DeskScapes first came out, CPU use was a concern for animated desktops. Now, machines are so much faster it�s barely measurable.

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DeskScapes 10: Animated wallpaper

Fences 3

Stardock released a new generation of Fences this year. 

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Fences 3

But we have a lot of plans in mind for future versions of Fences.  For example, in the age of cloud storage, imagine being able to create fences to Google Drive folders? Or a Fence of your YouTube subscriptions? The mission of Fences, now that Windows 10 seems to be the standard will evolve to incorporate your world into your desktop experience.  We�re very excited.

 

Tiles

Tiles is a program that doesn�t get enough attention.  The idea behind Tiles is that you have a sidebar with a series of pages on it. Each page can have different things on it depending on what you�re doing. 

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Tiles

On my desktop I have these pages:

  1. Development page.  I keep Visual Studio and a few other apps related to making software here.
  2. Business page.  This is where I switch over to start working on budgets and contracts
  3. Games page.  This is where I link to the various games
  4. Surf page.  This is just a list of my favortie sites I visit.  It�s how I quickly get to all the forums and such. Just click click click.

 

We are looking to further update Tiles (or possibly rebrand it as its mission has changed since its original release) to address Object Desktop 2017�s mission of integrating your world onto your desktop.

Start10

Is the Windows 10 Start menu better than the Windows 8 thingy? Yes.  Is it good? That�s only something you can decide for yourself.

As someone who deals with a lot of programs, Start10 is probably the first thing I install on a new box with Fences being a close second.

image image

Start10

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Windows 10 on my relatively new box. Thank goodness I know the weather.

 

Start10�s mission, to keep with our theme, will evolve as Windows 10 stays around longer.   Think about how you use your modern desktop.  You may have an Android device or an iOS device.  Does your Start menu pick up any of this? Most people now have multiple devices. Their desktop is supposed to be a superset device.  That�s where we have to go with Start10 in the future.  Keep the Start menu a simple, fast way to access your things but also give you the ability to quickly access anything on any device.  Google and Apple are already doing this on their devices.  Windows needs to do the same thing.

Multiplicity

Multiplicity is best known as the program that lets you control multiple PCs with a single keyboard and mouse.  The idea is that you might have a desktop and a laptop or maybe a couple other desktop machines that you have local access to and want to be able to combine these machines into a single user experience.

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Multiplicity is super easy to set up.

More recently, Multiplicity added support for machines that aren�t local.  In this case, it acts more like a KVM switch or a remote desktop solution.  What makes Multplicity differnet from a normal remote desktop solution is that it is focused on fidelity from top to bottom.  For example, you could play a video game via Multiplicity without a problem.

Once again, with Windows 10 becoming our target OS going forward, Multiplicity has a lot of room to grow over the next year. Our goal, again, is to integrate your digital world to your desktop.

The others

This past year we released IconPackager 10, the first major update to IconPackager in some time.  Once again, the reason is that Windows 10 is becoming a viable target for development � i.e. our finite development time isn�t going to be put into targeting something that is going to be thrown out in 2 years.

WindowFX continues to evolve as well.  We haven�t decided whether we will evolve the touch and other features we have in mind into WindowsFX or into a new Object Desktop program.

SpaceMonger is another recent entry into Object Desktop.  With its ability to manage not just your local storage but your cloud, it�s compelling.

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SpaceMonger will map out Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox use

We want to hear from you!

So how can you get Object Desktop 2017?

Just go to www.objectdesktop.com and there are options to renew your access to it (if you previously had Object Desktop) or get it new.  When you buy it, you access the Object Desktop manager which handles installing the components. 

Comment below with your own thoughts on what you�d like to see.

DeskScapes: Using Random Wallpapers on Your Desktop

Friday, October 14, 2016 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization

DeskScapes is a great way to mange your wallpapers, whether they are animated or static wallpapers. If you are not familiar with DeskScapes, it allows you to have animated wallpapers on your Windows desktop, and even lets you apply effects to those wallpapers for even more customization.

One of the questions I get asked the most about DeskScapes is how you can have wallpapers change randomly. It�s a cool feature but it seems not everyone is aware how to enable it, so I wanted to focus on this feature today.

Get DeskScapes


Open the DeskScapes configuration.

Next, hold down the Control key and select all the wallpapers you want be changed. You�ll see a checkmark on each wallpaper that is selected.

deskscapes_config_01

 

When you select multiple wallpapers, you�ll now have a random settings button appear. Select that and you�ll now be able to select the interval in which your wallpapers will change.

Hit apply and you�ll now have your animated wallpapers and static wallpapers applied according to your settings.

deskscapes_config_02


Learn more about DeskScapes here.


Reminder: Backup Your Object Desktop Apps!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization

Object Desktop is a suite of desktop enhancements that lets you change the look and functionality of Windows. Being an Object Desktop member gives a lot of great value with full access to many popular Stardock applications, betas, and any new or updated apps.

Check out some of the apps that are included with your Object Desktop membership:

  • WindowBlinds
  • DeskScapes
  • Fences
  • Start10
  • Multiplicity
  • IconPackager
  • and more!

Learn more about Object Desktop here

As long as your membership is active, you will always get updates to the latest versions of everything within Object Desktop, as well as any new apps that are added during that time.  When your membership expires, you will no longer have access to new updates, but you will still have access to the apps you had during your membership. Whether you plan to keep your membership active or not, it is still a good idea to keep backups of your apps, just so you have them in a pinch.

Here are two ways to get your apps backed up:

Download from your Stardock account

Every application you purchase, whether it�s the Object Desktop membership or just a stand-alone app, is available in the 'my downloads' section of your Stardock account.

Access your Stardock account here: http://download.stardock.com

There, you will find all the links to the apps you have available. Simply download them and keep them for future use if needed.

2016-09-27_15-16-48

 

Using Object Desktop Manager

If you download and install your apps using the Object Desktop Manager, then you should already have copies of all of your apps that have been installed.

The default location that they save to is: C:\Users\YourName\Downloads\Stardock

You can change where they are saved in the Object Desktop Manager preferences.

2016-09-27_15-24-22

3 Tips for Using Stardock's Start10

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

Ever since Windows 8 came out with the missing Start menu, Start8 has been a very popular Stardock app because it brought users back to Start menu they were familiar with. Even when the Start menu eventually returned, Start8 remained popular since it still offered Windows users a variety of options and customization.

Fast forward to today and now we have Windows 10 with its own take on the Windows Start menu. That’s where Start10 comes in, and just like before, gives Windows users the features and customization options to make the Windows Start menu look and function like they want it to.

Below, check out a few tips to make your Start10 experience even better!

Get Start10 for just $4.99

 

Start10 Integrates with Fences

Fences is another hugely popular Stardock app, so it makes perfect sense that some integration has been added. Fences lets you organize your desktop icons into grids called "fences", and now those fences are integrated right into the start menu with Start10. Any fence you have on your desktop will now also appear as entries in the Start menu.

 

Use a Custom Start Button

Start10 has several options for unique Start buttons that you can choose from included in the configuration screen. If you want to use a different image, there are hundreds available for download from WinCustomize.com that can be easily implemented. Pick the image you want to use, and that will be your new button on the Start menu.

2016-09-27_9-45-00

 

Apply Textured Backgrounds to Start Menu and Taskbar

Start10 allows you to customize the Start menu and even the taskbar with the ability to apply textures. You can select from a variety of textures and can even adjust transparency, color, and other customizations to get your Start menu and taskbar looking exactly how you want it to.

 

Learn more about Start10 here.

Start10, DeskScapes, WindowFX, and ShadowFX updates released

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

We have released several software updates today to address some issues reported by our users. We always appreciate the community feedback!

The updates can be downloaded from your Stardock account here.



Start10 v1.10

  • WindowBlinds10 compatibility tweaks.
  • Fix for UI configuration when viewing on a high DPI monitor.
Learn more about Start10 here.


DeskScapes v8.51

  • Fix for black screen after user locks computer, before restarting Windows after install.

 Learn more about DeskScapes here.

 

WindowFX v6.02

  • "Inactive Window" adjustments.
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes.
Learn more about WindowFX here.

 

ShadowFX v1.12 (beta)

  •   Fix for insider build breaking ShadowFX.

Learn more about ShadowFX here.

Free up storage space on PCs, shared-network and in the cloud with SpaceMonger

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News


Now available for purchase through Stardock!

SpaceMonger enables the fast discovery of files and folders taking up storage space on computers, shared network and personal cloud storage on Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive services.

Cloud storage may seem unlimited, but it is not free and does need to be managed. SpaceMonger is the first storage management tool supporting popular cloud storage services in addition to local PC, network and virtual storage. SpaceMonger even understands soft-links and mount points.

Learn more at the website.

Additional Key Features

  • Scan, map and manage PC, network and cloud storage

  • Copy, move and delete files to free up storage space

  • Locate large files and folders quickly with Treemap visuals

  • Find files by size, type and custom criteria with flexible search

  • Take clean-up actions on dynamically built file lists


Get SpaceMonger now!


Windows 10 tip of the day: Why does my battery drain while sleeping?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing

Does your laptop or tablet run out of battery while it?s supposed to be asleep?

You can find out why thanks to a fairly obscure but relatively new feature in Windows.

Step 1: Open a command prompt in adminstrative mode

Step 2: Go to a temp directory (like cd\temp)

Step 3: Type powercfig /SleepStudy

This will create a file in the current directory.  Open that file in your web browser and you will find out why.

Common causes:

  1. Notifications. Even while sleeping, the Windows notification system (WNS) does stuff.  Turn off as many unnecessary notifications as possible.
  2. Your type cover can wake the machine inadvertently.
  3. Your network card. Make sure you have the latest firmware and network drivers.

Good luck!

Start8 and Fences: First Apps Installed on New PC

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

If you follow my posts you might have seen I planned and recently finished my new PC.  Putting together a new PC is a bit of work, at least assembling all the parts together and making sure everything works.  That's only one part of it though, as you also have to install Windows, install all your apps and games, and then get your data moved back.

My new PC doesn't have an optical drive, so I loaded up my Windows 8 ISO onto a USB drive and installed it.  It didn't take long at all to install, and there was my new desktop.  Once I got updates installed and all the necessary drivers installed it was now time to get all the software I needed installed.

Before I got too far into my new desktop, I found myself continually trying to open the start menu.  After a few minutes of that, it was time to install Start8 and get my start menu back.  I installed it and set it up to how I like it, which is to have the Windows keys on the keyboard open the Windows 8 Start screen, and the start button to open the start menu.  Now it was much easier to navigate and quickly open places on my computer.

Next was to install Fences.  I was downloading a bunch of apps to install and my desktop was quickly filling up with icons, so that is where Fences comes in.  I created a folder portal with Fences to show my downloads folder, so everything I downloaded was placed there and was kept contained in that Fence.  Instant order came to the desktop.  

Once those were installed I started installing the most used and important apps.  This is also a good time not to install everything you had before, and just focus on the software you really need and use.  While I still have a few more things to install and get setup, these are my tops apps I got installed.

  • Steam 
  • Office 
  • iTunes 
  • Chrome
  • Firefox 
  • LastPass 
  • Dropbox 
  • Live Writer
  • MetroTwit
  • Snagit

Those are just a few of what I find most useful, but I still have several more to get installed. Here's my current desktop which I still need to do some more organizing with.

2015-02-17_16-02-54

Get Start8: http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/

Get Fences: http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/

 

The end of year musings: 2014 edition

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing

Naturally I�m waiting until the last day of the year to finally write this.

If you�re looking for a drab, properly edited, PR approved article, this is not that article.  So hang on as we do a skim through of the hyperbole of awesomeness that�s been going on this year.

Let me get this part out of the way: If you�re a gaming journalist, we�re going to be at GDC with a suite. In that suite will be Soren Johnson (Civ IV), Bruce Shelley (Civ, Age of Empires), Dan Baker (co-author of the DirectX shader language, engine lead on countless games), Dave Pottinger (Age of Empire series), Dorian Newcomb (art director on countless games), Tim Kipp (system lead on countless games including Civ V and industry expert on touch UI integration). And we�re going to be showing a lot of never before seen things and reacting to some of the upcoming industry announcements that aren�t currently public.  If you�re in the media and want to cover any of this, contact our PR manager, Stephanie Schopp (stephanie@tinsley-pr.com).

Now, let�s talk about this past year:

Here�s a brief recap for those of you in the Stardock community:

The new game studios

Back in 2011 when Stardock sold Impulse to Gamestop we were asked what we were going to do with all that capital.  At the time, I said we would set up an investment fund to help fund startups. 2014 was the year when we unveiled the first of these new companies.  It�s been a real challenge keeping the things we�re working on under wraps.

Oxide Games

imagewww.oxidegames.com was announced early this past year and unveiled a tech demo called Star Swarm.  Someday we�d like to do a full on game of it but the purpose here was to show Mantle (and while we couldn�t say anything at the time, how a future DirectX 12) could dramatically change the way games are made.  Right now, as we speak, any games you�re playing are communicating with the GPU via 1 core.  You have 4 cores? 8 cores? That�s nice. They�re doing little for you in terms of improving your gaming experience.  But Mantle and DirectX 12 will change that.  This will be a very big deal in the coming years.

Oxide is making a new type of 3D engine that will take advantage of this which will allow us to make new types of strategy and role playing games into the future.

The Oxide team is led by what was essentially the Civilization V engineering leads which includes one of the developers of the DirectX shader language. 

Mohawk Games

imageMeanwhile, acclaimed designer, Soren Johnson and I founded Mohawk Games together.  Soren is best known as the lead designer of Civilization IV. He has assembled an amazing team from around the industry and they�re currently working on a game called Offworld Trading Company.  And the good news is that this game is expected to go into Steam early access around this February. 

OTC has been a mixed blessing. I kid you not that this game is banned from being played outside of lunch hours now.  Even though it won�t ship until 2016, it�s been being played multiplayer for a long time.  Don�t worry single player fans, Soren has you covered. Even now, it�s single player AI is remarkably good (did I mention it�s still a year away from release).  Once released, its addictiveness will no doubt result in arrests and investigations. I�ll be in Belize by then.

Stardock: Towson

We also opened an office in Towson Maryland.  We�ve been lucky enough to recruit some amazing talent including Civilization V art leads (terrain, models, etc.), sound and music leads and some Big Huge Games veterans.  We are very fortunately to be located down the street from Firaxis, the world�s #1 strategy game studio (imo) and we share the building we�re in with Brian Reynold�s Big Huge Games (though they managed to get the lead graphics dev we wanted for Star Control! Winking smile)

The studio out there is working on Star Control.  Right now, it�s just the underlying game systems (which uses Oxide�s Nitrous engine).  The main game is expected to begin development this year once we�ve recruited a lead designer for the game.  Unfortunately, Paul Reiche, one of the best game designers in our industry�s history and the creator of Star Control 1/2, is pretty busy on Skylanders these days. 

We�ll be talking a lot more about the new Star Control in 2016.  Not too much will happen this year other than saying that while we will continue to support and promote the original Star Control classic series (www.starcontrol.com) the new one will be a reboot and have a different set of lore from the classic series.

Mothership Entertainment

Meanwhile, down in Texas, industry veteran Paul Tozour and us have founded Mothership Entertainment.  They�re working on a game that we expect to announce this year but won�t be released until 2016.  I can�t even hint at it right now. Smile

Stardock: Austin

All the new games, including Galactic Civilizations III and Sorcerer King will be using a new meta game service we internally call Tachyon.  The simplest way to describe it is that it�s Battle.net built on top of Steamworks.  So in case there�s any question on this: As far as Stardock is concerned, Steam is the PC game platform and Steamworks is its API.  I could write entire articles on how impressed we�ve been with Valve.  They run Steam in a way that only a privately held company could run it.  But I digress.

We want our new games to be able to have a meta experience like you see with Battle.net (which we love).  Luckily, we were able to recruit one of the original Battle.net architects, Adrian Luff from Blizzard to run the new studio. 

Other cool stuff coming up

BonusXP

imageEnsemble Studios created some of the best games of all time including Age of Empires and Age of Mythology.  When Microsoft closed Ensemble, many of its key leads went on to form a new company called BonusXP.

In 2015, their first major PC game will be announced.  The new game, whose developers include Dave Pottinger and Bruce Shelley is expected to be unveiled before GDC in 2015.   One of the reasons we feel very certain this game will become very popular is that after playing it, its game mechanics seem so obvious in hindsight.  In fact, I expect we�ll see a lot of games�borrow from it in the future.  I�m a fan.

Windows 10

We have a lot of things coming up for our non-game software (Object Desktop).  Still, if all goes well we will be in the position that in 2015, more than 50% of our revenue will come from games.  Most of our customers know us from our non-games.  

imageUnfortunately, since our programs tend to end up part of the OS, we tend to not talk about what we�re coming out with until the new version of Windows is far enough along that something won�t get integrated. Which isn�t to say we mind if Microsoft incorporates our OS ideas into Windows. Anything that makes Windows better is good for us all.   But we have some new things in development that are so obvious that once you see them in action you�ll know they�ll be part of the OS at some point.

Galactic Civilizations III & Sorcerer King

I can�t forget GalCiv III.  The beginning of 2015 will start out with us releasing the types of games we�ve been traditionally known for: 4X strategy games.  Both of these games excite me for very different reasons.

GalCiv III is being built on a brand new, 64-bit platform. It�s a custom engine designed to be built on for the next decade.  This matters because it will allow us to create, what we hope, is a true living breathing galaxy with amazing depth over time.

imageSorcerer King, is exciting because the game lends itself to third-part modder expansions in a way nothing we�ve made before does.  It was remarked by one of our modders that you could remake Baldur�s Gate with the Sorcerer King engine.

The people on the other end of your screen

I just wanted to end this with a mention of how much we appreciate you.  There are very few independent tech companies from our generation left.  And I can tell you, it�s a pleasure being able to talk to our customers and our friends in the media as openly and plainly as possible.

I believe this transparency has been crucial to our success over the years.   We are techies. We make no bones about that.  We love what we make and I say this without reservation, we love making this stuff for you. 




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