Day: March 18, 2013

Shattered Haven Launches on Steam, GOG, GamersGate, and Green Man Gaming

Arcen Games is excited to announce the launch of Shattered Haven, now available for PC and Mac on Steam, GOG, GamersGate, and Green Man Gaming; as well as directly through the Arcen Store. To celebrate the release, the game is on sale for 25% off until Friday, March 29th. A launch trailer for the game has been released as well.

The 2D action adventure horror title has you solving environmental puzzles in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by Grays — an unusual and powerful type of living dead that doesn’t rely on infection to spread its numbers. Play through dozens of levels in pursuit of your kin, who are forced to scatter across the region after a breach on the family compound. Make your way through branching story paths that result in several different outcomes, all the while completing bonus objectives to reach higher scores and gold markers.

Shattered Haven packs local 2-player co-op, gamepad support, and also includes access to the game’s level editor we used to make the main campaign. For more information on the game, check out Arcen founder Chris Park’s development blog article on exactly what the game is all about.

About Shattered Haven
An Environmental Puzzle Game About Family, Grit, and Survival

Grays roam the land, largely in the absence of human interference.  These aren’t your typical Zed — theirs is a very different sort of apocalypse. Animals spontaneously transform into twisted, violent beings.  The earth decays, collapsing into a network of abysses.  The wilderness thickens.

It has been nine years since That Day when it all started.  Pockets of humanity still exist, but are ignorant of one another.  Within these isolated havens people try to live as best they can — for even in a world so broken and dark, daily life must go on.

Darrell and Mary Williams were able to build such a life inside a five-acre fenced yard out in the country.  They were even secure enough in their isolated compound that they had a daughter five years after the zombie-like grays appeared.

Life carried on as normally as it could, until another refugee on the run is killed during a nearby attack. Her son is saved and taken in by the Williamses — who do not realize that this kind action will destroy their home and threaten their entire family.  They find themselves caught in the midst of a struggle between two eldritch horrors, and the path to survival is anything but clear.

Key Features

  • A 2D action adventure game where you solve environmental puzzles under duress. Figure out how to use various tools, traps, and weapons in each level to clear all the Grays lurking about.
  • Nearly 100 hand-crafted levels with multiple difficulty levels ranging between casual and hardcore, developed end to end by two experienced adventure level designers.
  • Complete bonus objectives for higher scores and gold markers.
  • Follow the story of Darrell and Mary as they try to save their family from a new and unexpected threat through in-game storytelling and painted-style cutscenes.
  • Guide different members of the Williams family through branching story paths that result in one of several endings.  Depending on your actions, the story may end very poorly, happily, or anywhere in between.
  • Music and sound by composer Pablo Vega provides a chilling atmosphere for players to experience.
  • Included level editor:  The same editor used to make the main adventure will let you make your own levels, cutscenes, or even entire adventures.
  • Local 2-player co-op.  Using two gamepads, two players on the keyboard, or any combination of the above.

For game updates and more, follow Shattered Haven on Arcen’s Forums, Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook.

About Arcen Games
Arcen Games entered the PC indie scene in 2009 with their cult classic AI War: Fleet Command, which was named the 40th best-reviewed PC game of the year by MetaCritic. Their second year was a busy one, seeing the release of The Zenith Remnant, the first full expansion for AI War; Tidalis, an innovative block-based puzzle with casual appeal and hardcore depth; and Children of Neinzul, a micro-expansion for AI War with all profits benefiting the Child’s Play charity, of which Arcen is a platinum sponsor.

AI War’s third and largest expansion Light of the Spire marked Arcen’s first release of 2011, with the rest of the company’s focus being devoted to their most massive project yet: A Valley Without Wind, which released in 2012. The end of 2012/start of 2013 has been another busy time for the team, with AI War’s fourth expansion Ancient Shadows launching, A Valley Without Wind 2 hitting 1.0, and now Shattered Haven’s release.

Originally a one-man shop, Arcen Games has grown to have half a dozen part-time or fulltime contributors to its various titles. For all the latest news, media coverage, and some of our other musings, visit us on our website, or follow us on Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook; as well as Arcen lead Chris Park’s Games By Design blog.

Just What Is This “Shattered Haven” Thing, Anyway?

Recently we put up a couple of gameplay videos, and hopefully that helps answer a lot of the questions right there.  But if you’re not into videos, or still have questions, read on.

Story-Driven Structure
When you first start a new game, it takes you through a brief tutorial level that also contains a goodly bit of story.  On “new game plus,” it skips these levels.  Once you’re past the tutorial, you emerge into the first overworld area, the Phoenix Forest.

The Phoenix Forest is the first of nine main overworld areas.  Each one contains a number of required levels in it, as well as some bonus levels that are hidden and/or harder.  Not all of the overworld areas are accessible in a single playthrough, as the story branches.  And one overworld area isn’t available at all until new game plus.

What Are These Levels?
The levels themselves are basically what you’re seeing in the videos linked above.  A single level typically has you coming in with no weapons or tools, and then having to make do with whatever you can find in the level.  They’re basically environmental puzzles, and many of them have multiple solutions.

There are also bonus objectives on each level that you can complete to get a better score and a gold marker outside the level.  These bonus objectives are a lot more challenging, and generally also require knowledge of the level to complete, so you won’t do them on your first try.  New game plus remembers all your scores and level completion statuses, which is handy.

Each level usually has the goal of killing all the grays (zombies) inside it, although sometimes your goal is just to escape or to kill any one evil animal or similar.  The grays are only weak to iron, water, and fire, so things like regular bullets don’t hurt them.  However, you can use a handgun (or if you later find it, a rifle) to stun them momentarily.  Those same guns can be used to kill hostile animals or other creatures.

Lots Of Variety
There are almost 100 levels in the game, and there’s twelve main weapons as well as thirteen main tools, and a handful of other items.  There are also some levels where you use the environment itself to kill grays in novel ways, such as stunning them with your whip so they get caught in an avalanche, or pulling a lever that causes a trapdoor to open. 

A lot of the tools and weapons can be used in multiple ways, or combined to create novel effects.  As one example the lantern can be used to light your way, or it can be used to set sticks and so forth on fire.  Grenades are useful for their initial blast, but also for creating holes behind them.  Shovels can dig through dirt walls, or fill in those same kinds of holes the grenades leave.  Hmm.  And so on.

The styles of levels vary pretty widely, too.  Some are incredibly head-scratchingly tricky.  Often those are bonus levels.  Some are a little more reflex-oriented, and aren’t really much of a puzzle at all.  Others are mazes, others are logic puzzles. 

The vast majority, however, are tactical engagements where you get dropped into hostile territory, grab for weapons and other deterrents, and then set about dismantling the enemy in the most efficient manner than occurs to you.  Rather like being a lone special forces dude dropped into a hot zone.  All of the levels are hand-crafted to make this as interesting and varied as possible.

Thick Atmosphere
During the alpha and beta we ran, one of the big things that kept coming up was how cool the atmosphere of the game is.  The graphics and lighting, and in particular the writing and music and sound work, combine to create a world that is decidedly creepy and mildly unsettling.  There are a few segments that will get your pulse going more, in particular related to story events that you probably won’t see coming.

The story itself is a bit unusual, in that it’s about adults looking out for their families, rather than adolescent adventurers out to save the world.  These people don’t want to be out doing what they are doing, but they’re forced into it by circumstances.  That’s interesting to me, and it also affects the general tone and mood.

Full Level Editor
All the levels in the game were created by an in-game level editor that is included with the game.  It’s right there on the main menu.  It’s a little complex, particularly if you get into scripting events or cutscenes, but it’s also possible to do some straightforward stuff pretty easily.  The key thing is that it’s extremely powerful, so for people who really get into this they can create some entire stories and adventures of their own.

And that’s about it!

Shattered Haven 1.0 Released!

This one is uncharacteristically gargantuan, even by Arcen standards.  Josh, Zack, and I have all been working all weekend to get all this finished up, and in particular Sunday was an 18 hour day for Josh and Zack, and so far looks like a 25 hours day for me.

But it’s all worth it — I couldn’t be more proud of what all the finishing touches we’ve put on the game.  Well, for one thing, the end of the game is actually complete.  Zack was designing away on Alden Ridge and Ganan Fields, as well as the final boss fight, while Josh and I were working steadily on implementing the voluminous story cutscenes that come at the end and near-end of the game.  A lot of the volume comes because of all the branching, really.

The release notes really gloss over all the coolest stuff; you get hints of it based on what sorts of scripting commands I added, but I don’t say how they were actually used in our scripts and levels.  That’s more fun to find out by actually getting there yourself!

The Shingen Rapid Prototyping Facility is one thing that has been pushed back to post-1.0.  I should be able to get that finished this week, but basically I wanted to make sure and take time to do that right.  It contains two of the endings, but they are both endings you can’t get until New Game Plus anyway.  Right now there are two main endings that you can get, although there are some smaller things that vary based on your actions as you get to the last legs of the game.

Fun fact: there is a way for every character in the game, be they an NPC or a main character or what, to die.  Well, actually there are a couple of characters that won’t be fatality-prone until the Shingen facility is in there, but that’s a minority.  And keeping all the characters alive is not possible, by the way. ;)

There are a couple of other little extras that we have planned for this week in particular, but as of this release this is a complete game that you can play end-to-end. 

Level Editor!
Oh!  And the level editor is now unlocked — I’ll warn you that the scripting window is a bit nuts when the scrollbars come in, but that’s largely because of the unity 3D lack of support for good scrolling multiline textboxes.  I’ve implemented some partial solutions there, but I’m going to take another crack at it this week.  That would be a useful thing to have for all our games, actually.

The Road To Creation
The creation of this game has really been quite a saga.  Originally it was just me any my wife working on it in 2008.  She did a good 30-some levels, I did around 60.  Then in the summer of 2008, Lars Bull — the lead designer of Tidalis, you may recall — came in and really gave me a huge amount of useful testing feedback.  The game jumped in quality.

Then I got stuck on something (how exactly to marry the puzzle and adventure elements, basically), and decided to take a “short break” and work on this game called AI War.  AI War was just a side project, in my mind.  Then of course that turned into something really cool and it became the basis of Arcen, and we were off to the races.

Four years later, in August 2012, we picked this back up again and started working on it in earnest.  I ported it to our newer engine, Zack started improving the levels and especially the overworlds, and he designed out the whole tutorial.

Erik and Zack and I had lengthy calls talking about the story up through around November or so, figuring out how to make all the elements I had started with really come together in a satisfying conclusion that made sense.  Erik in particular was really helpful on figuring out large plot points, because he’s got such an encyclopedic knowledge of the macabre genres.  Not to say that Zack and I weren’t holding our own.

Then while Valley 2 was really taking up everyone else’s time, Zack was pretty much left all by his lonesome working on Shattered Haven.  I kept telling him we’d be back, heh.  Then as soon as Valley 2 came out, Josh and I jumped in with both feet and suddenly we were whirring along towards 1.0.  Zack had made enormous progress in the time since he’d started on the progress, and the overworld areas were a lot more intricate and Zelda-like than what I’d originally designed.

When Josh and I got onto this project, so did Pablo actually.  He started composing new music tracks for the game, and remastered the better of the stock tracks that I’d been using up until that point.  All in all we tossed out about three quarters of the music that had been in use prior to the porting, and the result was something much stronger.  This is the first Arcen soundtrack that isn’t 100% composed by Pablo, but he did a lot of the more emotional stuff that you hear emphasized.

Around the time that Valley 2 was really getting underway, Heavy Cat Studios was also starting work on Shattered Haven.  They wound up setting that aside for a while, same as I did, but then came back to it starting in February.  “Blue,” Arcen’s new part-time art director, also spent a fair bit of time doing things like the cloud effects and some of the other things that make Shattered Haven pop.  I did the particle effects with Particle Illusion as usual, and I did the shadows and lighting.

It’s been a really long road for this game, but we had a blast making it despite the long hours here at the end.  We hope that you enjoy playing it!

This is a standard update that you can download through the  in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  When you  launch the game, hit the big “Play” button and then you’ll see the notice of the update having been found if you’re connected to the Internet at the time.