Author Topic: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)  (Read 8095 times)

Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2010, 10:00:58 PM »
And by the way, Shardz, Strider, eRe4s3r, and others -- thanks for the support.  I was super bummed about not making it into the PAX 10 way back when, because I thought AI War had a much better shot there, but with IGF I'm not particularly upset, just a little disgruntled that there isn't a more representative indie contest around (though PAX might be the one, really).  Anyway, but the solidarity is much appreciated, I know some of the other staff are a bit more bummed about IGF.
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Offline Mikus

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2010, 12:15:44 AM »
Bah, I think much of the indie awards are more of a fan-wank than recognizing excellence. X, you know that most of your success with AI War has come from word of mouth and to me that is probably the highest recognition, that people would endorse this game to their friends.  I and 3 of my friends are now playing this game and I would recommend it to anyone else who enjoys epic RTS games in the tradition of Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander.  There could be a couple more friends we might get into AI war now that we are playing it regularly.  Who needs recognition, when you can have actual success?   ;)

Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #17 on: January 05, 2010, 12:19:30 AM »
I'd certainly rather have success than recognition, that is for sure!  Thanks for the kind words, Mikus.
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Offline Trurl

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #18 on: January 05, 2010, 12:26:23 AM »
It sucks that AI War didn't get a nomination. It would have surely meant more revenue for you, and would have felt very good. But, like you said, AI War isn't really the kind of game that gets an IGF nomination. The IGF awards are full of games with relatively simple (yet good) gameplay and unique art styles, neither of which AI War has. Had you gone with an abstract art style  (e.g. like Darwinia), then perhaps you would have gotten nominated.

Anyway, my friends and I have been playing a ton of AI War and we love it. I wish you all the best, and hope that not getting an IGF nomination doesn't derail you too much.

Offline Lancefighter

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2010, 12:41:35 AM »
Personally - i just got off a pair of excellent multiplayer games (3ish people each.. one made it to 5 before we got pwned, one unfinished)

Frankly, ive yet to find a rts that matches those games, and really the only other game I could say I felt the same way about was Spring (rts based off TA, free), and then, only in the rare times when youve got a team actually synergizing..

I had a blast personally, playing straight from some 3pm till 11ish pm.... and Id love to do it again tomorrow :D
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Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2010, 12:45:31 AM »
Many thanks, guys -- the outpouring of support is unexpected and much appreciated.  Don't worry though, the IGF thing hasn't derailed us at all.  You wouldn't believe the amount of internal work going on right now on AI War to get these minor AI factions completed (hopefully all of them will be released to public beta tomorrow).  These have been partly in progress for a few months now, more heavily in the last few weeks, and I'm so excited to be near the end of that road (and then ready to tackle the final polish of the expansion for the rest of the week), that it's hard to pay too much attention to IGF, despite how much I seem to have been discussing it. :p
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Offline RCIX

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2010, 01:12:24 AM »
Sorry to join the conversation so late --

AI war is simply an impressive piece of technical design combined with a good artist and composer, with a matchless strategic gameplay. I think perhaps these people are taking the approach of it being an RTS game and thus failing to understand how to play it right. Combine that with the fact you usually need to spend several hours on a campaign to "get into" it, and you can see why it isn't liked by as many people (kids nowadays having shorter attention spans and all that).

Don't get discouraged, just remember that 10k+ number! :D
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Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #22 on: January 06, 2010, 03:10:41 AM »
Thanks, RCIX -- definitely not discouraged.  And, that number is 12k+, as it turns out. :)
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Offline RCIX

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #23 on: January 06, 2010, 07:02:26 PM »
Thanks, RCIX -- definitely not discouraged.  And, that number is 12k+, as it turns out. :)
Wow! Glad to hear it :)
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Offline Shardz

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #24 on: January 06, 2010, 08:15:07 PM »
In my travels, I noticed that Gamespot had a little feature in the news about this and listed the finalists here;
http://www.gamespot.com/news/6244934.html?tag=latestheadlines;title;2

I checked out some of the games and it's hard for me to imagine anything coming close to the depth and scope of AI War...even in the slightest stretch of the imagination. I'm thinking perhaps bigger and better things are in store for the franchise as it doesn't really seem to meld well with what is on that list. To me, AI War is closer to a Europa Universalis type of game in that it is well done and offers great depth and re-playability...and even though Paradox Interactive is an indie developer, quite a few don't really see that franchise fitting into the mold of what we see on that list, either.

I have played many, many strategy games over the years and even in this genre. Galactic Civilizations, Master of Orion, Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, Homeworld, etc. are fantastic games in their own right, but nothing really comes close to the depth, scope, detail, and masterful crafting of AI War thus far. I don't recall the last time I was so delightfully bewildered at a plethora of options that enthralled me to the extent of not wanting to get up from my chair for hours at a time. It's actually a lot of fun to just put the game on pause and take a long survey of what is transpiring in the game world and to actually *think* about your moves and what to do next. Not many games are as exciting in paused mode as they are running and it's almost like a rather large chess game that requires you to back up and look at the big picture instead of lunging at the screen in micromanagement mode trying to click your way out of trouble.

I think when the time is right, AI War will have its time in the spotlight and will pick up much more steam ahead and claim some valuable accolades as being one of the best strategy games ever made. It will be a fun and adventurous ride along the way, but this franchise has just too much to offer to be ignored by any means and will be a major force to be reckoned with once all is said and done!

Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #25 on: January 06, 2010, 08:24:03 PM »
Thanks, Shardz - that's very kind of you.  I do think that Arcen has a lot more in common with Paradox, that's for sure.  Even GPG started out more on a track like ours.  Hopefully we'll see success at all on the scale of what they've seen.  I'm very hopeful that we'll get some good coverage on the expansion when that comes out shortly, so that hopefully more players will be introduced to the game for the first time. 

In general, we tend to have a 15% growth in our playerbase even in our "off" months (compared to December, which saw something like a 40% increase), so if that trend is kept alive through word of mouth, news about DLC, and news about exciting new expansions over the next few years, I'm hoping that we'll continue to see the game build in momentum.  That would really be a trend counter to the norm, but then again that's the sort of counter-normal trend we're already seeing (and so much is atypical about AI War that I guess it's not a stretch to imagine that the trajectory of its popularity might be really different, too).

Anyway, so I think the future does look bright, IGF or no. :)
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Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #26 on: January 06, 2010, 08:34:21 PM »
Interesting email I just got from IGF, thought I'd share in case others are curious:

Quote
Firstly, thank you for entering the 2010 Independent Games Festival Main Competition!  With record entries topping 300 this year, it was another amazing but competitive year for the competition, and we really wanted to express our appreciation for putting your game forward.

Please accept our commiserations if you didn't make the finalists (and our congratulations if you did!). However, we've made a much stronger attempt this year to ensure that you all get significant feedback from the over 150 leading game industry judges (indies, mainstream devs, and indie-friendly game journalists). They voted and then left over 1800 comments on games this year, so we're delighted to pass them on to you.

You are welcome to quote them in public to support your game or for any other reason, and we hope that you'll take the comments and criticism constructively, as was intended. We're also highlighting what categories your game scored the best and worst in, for your information:

AI War: Fleet Command scored best in:  Technical

And scored worst in:  Audio

---

Since the AI is a key selling point of this game, it would have been nice if you found a way to expose it up front.

Also, you may wish to introduce some smaller maps. If necessary, speed up the action by speeding up the game and offering to automate certain activities for the player if necessary. Civilization is a game of relatively high complexity that has ways of making your first experience with it relatively compelling -- take inspiration from that.


---

for starters, your game has the most generic name in the competition.

i'll preface this by saying that i don't generally play this kind of strategy game. you clearly had a particular audience in mind for your game, and i'm not that audience. but i think that also makes my perspective valuable: i should be better able to evaluate the design of your game if familiarity doesn't make me take it for granted. and i believe that i should be able to appreciate good design even if i don't care for the game.

your game seems interested in complexity simply for the sake of complexity. i'm not just referring to the menus that sprawl forth whenever i click on any structure, or the piddling and seemingly arbitrary details of the game's manufacturing heirarchy (only a colony ship can build a new command post at a planet my army has already occupied), or the minutiae of special cases (a harvester exo-force-field exists just to defend a harvester) but just the way the game is played: right click on a location to send my troops there, except when it's a wormhole in which case i hold CTRL and right click, unless i want them all to move at the same speed in which case i hold G and CTRL and right click.

the game isn't very efficient at conveying information: there's a lot of zooming in and out (i can't imagine playing this game without a mousewheel), and even when fully zoomed out i have to pan to see all of a "planet." but when i'm zoomed out to see all my troops, i can't see a wormhole to CTRL + G + right click on it.

zooming is confusing itself, for a few reasons. the first is that the background doesn't scale. the planet in the background does, but it isn't fixed to the plane my ships are on and only scales a little. and my ships stop scaling and become fixed icons at a certain distance (not a very far one, either; the only time i can see what my ships look like is when i'm very close to them, and i'm never that close because the game always deals with huge numbers of units).

the scale of the game - the fact that the game never seems to expect me to deal with a group of less than forty ships - seems to me to be another symptom of complexity for its own sake, rather than for the sake of the game. a game with a smaller scale would be easier to manage, but this game seems to delight in endless details, which just serve to put more distance between the player and the game.

---

Here's the biggest problem with AI War - the learning curve. It's steep. Ridiculously steep. The tutorials help get your feet wet but it's still overwhelming when every option in the game is dropped on you immediately.

This steep learning curve tainted my experience with the game from the get-go. A feeling of overwhelming complexity came over me and in that kind of environment the first reaction is usually to give up.

Of course this being the IGF I pressed on but for many first time users that would be the first and last of their experience with the game. No matter how cool the AI technology is, dumping an overwhelming amount of stat types, unit types, etc. right at the start will push away many potential players.

This game desperately needs a campaign or some other way of introducing game mechanics at a slow but constant pace.

---

There are clearly some very clever things happening under the hood of this game, but it is just about as arcane as it can be, like trying to read Hemingway in binary.

The fact that most of the best information about how to play the game exists on a wiki, and isn't taught to the player in the game itself desperately needs some resolution.

Granted, the game's been quite popular with its niche, but it's terribly uninviting to non-genre fans in ways that Civ and the rest of its influences have evolved to encompass. I hope this gets resolved in time, and it looks like Park's been fantastic about continuing to tweak the game, so I have faith it will.

---

Easy Tutorials, manages well to wrap complex gameplay in a good learningcurve. It would be nice if there was also a singleplayer mission. RTS fans are gonna love this game

---

The developer is right that this game is difficult to judge, especially without trying out the multiplayer.  Overall, I think the game could really benefit from some interface improvements.  For instance, remove the requirement of Ctrl key when issuing commands.  Clicking on an object or near it on the minimap should take me straight to the object, rather than empty space somewhere near it.  You should add lifebars if even to the little info menu so that someone at a quick glance could tell how their unit is doing -- looking at the HP number takes longer.  The game could also use some nice sound cues whenever anything of importance happened.  Perhaps I didn't notice them, but you're selling this awesome world in space -- you should make the player feel like they're in space with their armies.

I really appreciated that you made a tutorial and for the most part it worked well, but at one point I got stuck and had to restart the game (though thanks to the save feature, not the tutorial) because I clicked on some text instead of hitting Y like the tutorial was expecting.

Nice work, overall.

Opinions vary, eh?  You give someone who's a fan of RTS games a complex RTS game, and they have one reaction -- give someone who doesn't really like the genre the same game, and of course they're not going to be thrilled.  Overall they are good notes, although of course some of them are quite off base as they aren't considering audience to the degree that they should; AI War isn't a game for people who want quick-clicky stuff any more than Chess is (well, there is speed Chess, but you still have to be damn good at regular Chess to play that).

Anyway, this isn't an invitation to start bashing the judges, just remember that not everyone is going to "get it" about this or any other game, and that's okay.  But it does speak somewhat to how out of place AI War was in the competition there, compared to what they were overall looking for, anyway.

Also, I just have to comment, since so many complain about the name AI War.  Which is the most generic in this list:

AI War: Fleet Command
Supreme Commander
Dawn of War
Total War

Or, you get others:
Civilization (which gets a first-mover bonus, anyway)
Empire Earth
Age of Empires
Age of Mythology

Even names like Rise of Nations aren't particularly jaw-droppingly unique and original.  The one thing I don't understand is how people decide a name is unique or not.  Certainly, A Valley Without Wind is vastly more unique and evocative than AI War.  But, giving a kind of squishy name to a hardcore RTS seems like a bad idea.  There are some very esoteric and clever names out there -- Sins of a Solar Empire and Sword of the Stars both instantly come to mind -- but those seem to be the exception, not the rule.  /end off topic rant.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2010, 08:41:19 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Shardz

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2010, 09:23:38 PM »
I guess I'll jump in here while my fingers are warmed up and try to add my opinion to this rather lengthy reply (and it's cool they did that as opposed to snubbing their nose with no reason).

I think most of us here like the lengthy scope of this game and don't mind playing 20+ hour campaigns. If we wanted instant gratification, we would load up C&C and play a meaningless 20 minute game with no recollection of memories later and no stories to tell. Epic is just that - it takes time like an opera to unfold and savor all the intricacies that are offered and to exploit your gray matter. Not many people have patience these days, and it's sad that this fact is reflected within their decision making, in my opinion. I enjoy long, enduring, epic campaigns and feel the game sets up a table of a 14 course meal instead of a Hungry Man microwave meal that most kids would be thrilled with in the long run.

Complexity is a subjective term I suppose and how much is too much varies from person to person. You can go as deep as you like in this game or just learn the basics and try to survive. The world is not a simple place and neither is AI War, but I don't find it overly complicated, either. I was up and running within an hour to get the basic gist of things, then I had ample material to sort through to keep my attention as I find it interesting that there is a degree of "rock, paper, scissors" effect going on here and knowledge is key to overcoming heavy losses in the long run. I do prefer the complexity of AI War to other mindless RTS titles that offer little depth and little replay value.

I am the proud owner of a wheel-less old school Logitech three button trackball (stand up for applause). I am not having all that much trouble panning and zooming as this reviewer who is using a mouse wheel states. In a split second I can get a full view and click a key to zoom to my cursor - not all that difficult. As far as controls go, there are a *ton* of hotkeys for this game, but I would rather have a lengthy list of hotkeys than to be very limited in how I give orders to units. I don't find the controls to be all that daunting and there are quite a few I don't use quite yet and I'm doing just fine.

This week I stumbled upon a new product of epic proportions; X3 Reunion. No tutorial, a 100 page manual, and not much detailed explanation of anything...or at least not much "how to" stuff that would have helped. I've been playing all week and have gotten nowhere...very little progress so far and I'm still very confused how to do anything. The X3 series is doing very well and is popular among the space sim crowd I might add. In AI War, I played through the tutorial with no problems, then continued to play through it after the lessons were over to finish the game and win. I felt I had a thorough understanding of the basic fundamentals to operate a game on my own after that. I did tone down the AI quite a bit on my first game run, but that first game is still going after 20+ hours and I'm having fun with it.    

There is one thing I definitely do agree with in the review here; AI War is not for everyone. It is a niche game and there is a degree of research that needs to done to hold your own in battle. Will the C&C folks dig AI War? Probably not. Will the GalCiv crowd like it? More than likely. There are times where I like to jump in a mindless game and tear it up for 10 minutes and bail out and forget about it. We all have these games and love them. But some of us need substance...some meat to go with our bread. There are times when I want EPIC and I want to be challenged and think within the realms of a complex game of chess with many more options. The indie market is FLOODED with stuff that refuses to test you in any way and I stay away from that stuff for the most part as I have my quick "rip and bail" games already that do just fine. It's all too clear that the panel of judges here want jump and run titles with high production values and little under the hood to keep your interest for more than 10 hours total. I hail from the great times of Civilzation and Heroes of Might & Magic and Galactic Civilization and I'm more than happy devoting time to a game that rewards me with the opportunity to think and plot my fate over time. You simply can't have that in a quick 10 minute slap and run session and expect a joyous experience that you can converse with your friends about for hours.

Regarding the audio comment. Ok...AI War doesn't offer 3D surround sound ala Crysis and probably won't win a Grammy for voice overs anytime soon. I honestly didn't notice the audio all that much as I was busy with 10 million other things in the process! LOL! I feel that perhaps there could be some minor improvements along these lines, but will it really enhance the game all that much? Probably not. The music is pretty slick, but I normally turn music off during games - OK, I'm strange and not the majority, but I don't think the sound effects and such are terrible. With all that is going on in the game and trying to keep the system requirements down, we really don't need 24 channels of audio flooding our ears when we are trying to think. :)

All in all, I think AI War is just in a class by itself and can't be ranked among the Mario Bros. clones that it went up against. It really wasn't a fair ordeal entering a quarter horse in a dog show and expect a blue ribbon in the end. Although, the Technical award is quite cool and it definitely deserves that in the very least. Heads and chins held high, I would simply market the game for what it is and not base its merits on what other games are doing - cause if they were all that great, I'd have them on my hard drive.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2010, 09:39:18 PM by Shardz »

Offline x4000

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #28 on: January 06, 2010, 09:31:14 PM »
Good summary, Shardz -- I really can't disagree with anything there.  My favorite part: "It really wasn't a fair ordeal entering a quarter horse in a dog show and expect a blue ribbon in the end."  That made me smile. :)
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Offline RCIX

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Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2010, 09:34:39 PM »
Basically what Shardz said at first --

I would mostly ignore the second review; that guy clearly doesn't like RTSes in general, which is kinda a prerequisite (no offense intended). Besides: Obviously enough people like "complexity for it's own sake" to buy it! ;)

I do however second the recommendations of the first review -- offering players a smaller, faster paced gameplay where small squads and even individual units can shine would be a worthy goal to add for a future game!

The third review is more or less me, i just can't seem to find a map and settings i like and moreover get into the campaign far enough that i don't just chuck it after a couple hours worth. Though the small "tutorial" campaign would fit the bill for what that guy wanted. And, as a result, we don't get to see your awesome AI :(

In short: You've made an awesome game which is doing great in it's niche, but in order to break out into the main market you'll need some sort of ramp for those not willing or able to scale the massive barrier to entry.
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